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Kelly Segal Consulting

Save Cookie Cutters for the Kitchen, or Why One Size Does Not Fit All

Having spent 2+ decades as a professional, now consultant, in the nonprofit space, I am frequently asked for catch-all strategies. Over the last few years, the methods with which to disseminate and receive advice have increased dramatically. There used to be books, a conference that came to town, if you could afford it, and a few trade journals. Thanks to technology, we can now expand our knowledge base, with a never-ending stream of how-to guides in the manner of e-learning classes, e-books, and webinars–just to name a few!


Advice giving is a business

It’s good to remember that most who offer nonprofits advice on how to be more profitable, are also trying to make a profit themselves. I support this, as experts should be paid for their services. That said, nonprofits should keep in mind that the more general the lesson topic, the larger the potential audience, the more revenue the host stands to make.

Obtaining a general understanding of say, good donor stewardship practices, is beneficial. Blindly applying those practices to your nonprofit–likely less than beneficial.


Every nonprofit has a specific culture

Maybe you’re familiar with the idea that every business has its own culture. Corporate culture, as it is often called encompasses everything from formal policies and procedures, to the way employees interact with one another. Slightly different, is the very important nonprofit culture–really the DNA of each individual organization. The nonprofit culture can be slightly more complicated in that it usually reflects the mission, vision, and core values of the organization.

In my work, I’ve found that the insides of community nonprofits are complicated because just as they serve a community with a particular identity, the inside of the nonprofit is also a community.

Since the culture of a nonprofit is the nonprofit, it is difficult to blindly apply general strategy advice. If you do decide to dip your toe into a super helpful sounding webinar, remember to carefully distill the methods, and make them appropriate for your nonprofit.


Or…hire the right consultant

You might save money by taking advantage of that reasonably priced webinar, but it can take a lot of time reworking presented strategies to fit your organization. The right management consultant for your organization should be able to quickly assess a situation, and create an implementable strategy that respects and preserves your organization’s culture. Often the money you save paying for general advice, then having to rework it, can end up costing more in time and money–and, well, time is money.

Using easily accessible portals as professional development platforms can definitely be a good option, but it requires thoughtful implementation that suits your organization.

It’s all doing good, it’s just done better.