The Inevitable Nonprofit and Money Conversation

With the launch of 501 Mission Place comes the same conversation about whether it’s right to charge a nonprofit for education. My thoughts on this have always been the same: nonprofits are businesses with a cause in mind. They consume services and products just like other businesses. They deserve some consideration in such matters, but free isn’t the only price point with a nonprofit.

Nonprofits Need Money to Run

The same people who complain that someone charges a nonprofit for a product or a service are the same people who hit me up multiple times a month for donations or support for their cause. Yep, at the very heart of every nonprofit is a need to sustain itself through donations and grants. I donate plenty of my own money every month to various causes (mostly homeless, children, autism, and cancer). One goal of 501 Mission Place is to help people improve their ability to raise more funds in a sustainable way. After another conversation with a CFO for nonprofits, we’re even going to look into conversations of budget and money management.

Nonprofits Buy From For-Profits All the Time

Having talked to people who run charities and nonprofits, there are all kinds of operation and infrastructure expenses built into such organizations. The goal is to minimize overhead so that more of the donated money goes to the target cause, but there’s always some overhead. Education is a decent kind of overhead because it’s the kind that hopes to provide a yield for the expense. As I run into nonprofits at events all the time, I know that they buy conference tickets and airfare and hotels and pay for meals. 501 Mission Place is a for-profit platform that offers a reduced rate from most online education community platforms (most of the other HBW platforms will cost $47 a month, so we took almost 50% off the rate to be sensitive to a nonprofit’s budget).

Ultimately, it’s a Decision

You don’t have to pay for 501 Mission Place. You can visit several great free resources all over the web. [chrisbrogan.com] is free, by the way. I write about nonprofits here every once in a while, and other stuff I write for businesses is still applicable to nonprofits. I’m a huge fan of NTEN, so check that out, too. Whether or not you decide to spend your money on 501 Mission Place is your choice, and I respect your choice.

Money Isn’t Evil

Every nonprofit and charity I know needs money to exist. They shut down all the time from lack of money. Seems to me that money is the lifeblood of every nonprofit I know, because just sitting around wearing ribbons and wanting to change the world isn’t really helping many people, is it? Systems need resources to survive. I charge a small amount of money per month with the goal that you’ll figure out ways to make much more than that for your organization based on the information the group gives you.

Decide for Yourself

I invite you to join 501 Mission Place, where we help nonprofits figure out how to grow, help with your specific challenges, and give you a network of engaged people seeking to take on the world’s issues and bring them to a new level. With our leader and facilitator, Estrella Rosenberg, and a bunch of smart minds like John Haydon, Marc Pitman, Rob Hatch, and you, we’ll do what we can to improve your cause’s effectiveness.

It’ll cost you $27 to figure out whether it’s for you. That’s the cost of a hardcover book. Sometimes, books are great but don’t apply to us. Not everyone got what they needed from Trust Agents, and that’s okay. So, you decide. Swing by 501 Mission Place and see what’s taking shape. We’re already hard at work trying to give people their money’s worth.

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  • http://leadershipforgood.com Mike Cassidy

    No margin, no mission. Well said Chris. Good luck with 501 Chris and team — see you over there!

  • http://www.aveventsolutions.com Event Management Companies

    This is brilliant, necessary, and inspiring all in one. To be charitable and to simultaneously need to acquire (and manage) money seems like a contradiction, but your comment says it all–”sitting around wearing ribbons and wanting to change the world isn’t really helping many people, is it?”

  • Anonymous

    Amen. Thanks for saying it.

  • http://www.shaunanicholson.com/ Shauna Nicholson

    I’m working with the Jewish Federation in Detroit to make this a digital reality for them. I appreciate your post. It seems breaking away from the traditional non-profit model is difficult, but necessary.

    Digital tools are a great way to cut overhead, but the initial investment case must still be made.

    Thanks, Chris.

  • http://www.shaunanicholson.com/ Shauna Nicholson

    I’m working with the Jewish Federation in Detroit to make this a digital reality for them. I appreciate your post. It seems breaking away from the traditional non-profit model is difficult, but necessary.

    Digital tools are a great way to cut overhead, but the initial investment case must still be made.

    Thanks, Chris.

  • http://twitter.com/jeffpower jeff power

    Yep, this one’s hard. I’ve been in the non-profit all my life and we need reminders like this. The for-profit has built-in resource amplification. If you do what you do well, it generates money to do even more. But the non profit is a “two-business” model. There’s “what you do”, and then there’s “securing resources” to do what you do. You’d really prefer to simply do what you do, so it’s tempting to skimp on good practices toward those you’re securing resources from. Thanks Chris for clear-headed thinking on honoring those who help provide the resources!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Doing what I can, Jeff, and grateful for your years of service.

  • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

    I agree Chris I saw a few people complaining and like you said a few of them complain because they are thinking of themselves. I am more than sure that the content you are providing on 501 Mission place is very valuable. I run into the issue here locally non-for profits where their officers are making a decent salary and are always asking for support. In most occasions they request donations and when you have to incur expenses for them they expect you to take a hit also. But on there side they are not willing to sacrifice part of there salaries to make the effort work any better.

    I think $27 dollars is a gift compared with what other companies charge for less valuable content. I will keep spreading the word around and wish you and your team all the Luck.

    PS: I really wanted to tweet these lines but they where more than 140 characters.

    “The same people who complain that someone charges a nonprofit for a product or a service are the same people who hit me up multiple times a month for donations or support for their cause.”

    • http://twitter.com/steveames Steve Ames

      Help! What content are you talking about? Did you pay without knowing? Did you join? How is it?
      Steve
      Elmore, Vermont

      • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

        I have paid for Chris’ Content on various occasions and different to other sources where I pay and don’t see the value. When Chris and his team offers content where you have to pay you see the value quickly.

        I am spreading the word and hopefully a few non-for profits will get value out of his effort and will make sure to let you know.

      • http://raulcolon.net Raul Colon

        I have paid for Chris’ Content on various occasions and different to other sources where I pay and don’t see the value. When Chris and his team offers content where you have to pay you see the value quickly.

        I am spreading the word and hopefully a few non-for profits will get value out of his effort and will make sure to let you know.

  • Jill Manty

    And let’s not confuse “non-profit” with unprofitable. As with any business (and, make no mistake, non-profits are businesses), if you have to spend money to make more money, that’s a good decision. As long as you’re providing value and helping add to their bottom line, there should be no problem. But isn’t that true when dealing with for profit businesses, as well?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      It’s absolutely true, Jill. My point is that money is the lifeblood of both nonprofit and for profit enterprises. No matter what your mission, it runs on money.

  • http://twitter.com/RockCityGhost RockCityGhost

    Chris,

    As someone trying to start a non-profit, I found this to be a great article and I’m going to look into 501 Mission Place!

    RockCityGhost

  • http://twitter.com/RockCityGhost RockCityGhost

    Chris,

    As someone trying to start a non-profit, I found this to be a great article and I’m going to look into 501 Mission Place!

    RockCityGhost

  • http://water.org Erin Swanson

    I’ve come to see the money/support ask as giving other the opportunity to be a part of something good, especially since I know so well how we use people’s money, our methodology, sustainable work model, etc. I don’t feel bad and just realize that whatever the response, it is each individual’s decision, and I am merely extending an invitation! I think if we, as nonprofits and as donors, re-frame our perspective on it, it might help us move forward together to do even great work!

  • http://water.org Erin Swanson

    I’ve come to see the money/support ask as giving other the opportunity to be a part of something good, especially since I know so well how we use people’s money, our methodology, sustainable work model, etc. I don’t feel bad and just realize that whatever the response, it is each individual’s decision, and I am merely extending an invitation! I think if we, as nonprofits and as donors, re-frame our perspective on it, it might help us move forward together to do even great work!

  • http://geovisions.org Rlegrant

    We are willing to join. $300/year is a typical subscription (actually low) for quality information and the ability to reach out to a community of like-minded people with vision (rather than mission). But we have a company ban on PayPal. Our Board has simply said..no way. So I’m not sure how we pay you the $27 each month if PayPal is the only way it can happen. IS there another way?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      We currently don’t have another way. The software we use links to PayPal, Amazon Payments, and Google Checkout. Of the three, most people in surveys (not surveys we took, but ones we consulted for this project) said they preferred the user experience at PayPal.

      I’m curious why the company bans PayPal. I mean, just for my education.

      In the mean time, we’re researching other payment methods.

  • http://geovisions.org Rlegrant

    We are willing to join. $300/year is a typical subscription (actually low) for quality information and the ability to reach out to a community of like-minded people with vision (rather than mission). But we have a company ban on PayPal. Our Board has simply said..no way. So I’m not sure how we pay you the $27 each month if PayPal is the only way it can happen. IS there another way?

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Chris,

    You are right. Non-profits do need money to run. In screening them, however, please encourage people to look at the administrative spending and behaviors. When the mission of the organization shifts from promoting/providing for a cause to raising funds, there is a good chance too much of the money is being diverted to ensure executive salaries and consultant fees more than anything else.

    All my best,
    Rich

  • Jodi Kaplan

    Sure it’s OK to charge nonprofits for education; just like it’s OK to charge them for food or electricity or printing.

    I used to work for the DMA (a nonprofit). One of my jobs was marketing a series of conferences aimed specifically at nonprofits. They charged hundreds or even over a thousand dollars for those conferences and people came – year after year after year. Much more costly (especially with hotel and food and travel) then $27 a month.

    Hey, I understand Chris that you spoke at the DMA Annual this year. Bravo to whoever thought of that!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      The folks at SAS, who were a sponsor of the DMA, brought me in to speak, so it wasn’t a DMA person who had the idea, Jodi. That said, it was really fun to be there.

  • Jodi Kaplan

    Sure it’s OK to charge nonprofits for education; just like it’s OK to charge them for food or electricity or printing.

    I used to work for the DMA (a nonprofit). One of my jobs was marketing a series of conferences aimed specifically at nonprofits. They charged hundreds or even over a thousand dollars for those conferences and people came – year after year after year. Much more costly (especially with hotel and food and travel) then $27 a month.

    Hey, I understand Chris that you spoke at the DMA Annual this year. Bravo to whoever thought of that!

  • http://twitter.com/ntenhross Holly Ross

    Thanks for this Chris.

    First – thanks for the shout out. It means so much to us here at NTEN that you’re behind what we’re doing.

    Second – I have no problem with the idea that we have to charge money for education for the nonprofit sector. Here at NTEN, we do it all the time. We have a membership fee, webinar fees, and conference fees. Those fees provide us the resources to keep developing educational content and they underwrite the large amount of programming we provide for free.

    Third – I’m hearing some grumbling. There are people who are bound to feel threatened by the idea of a for-profit horning in on the sector to make a buck. My take is this. My job at NTEN is to give my members the conversation, connections and learning they need to excel in their work and change the job. If I fail them, they should leave me. And where they get that conversation, those connections, and that learning doesn’t really matter to me. As long as it is happening. I’m a big believer in the idea that the methods matter less than the outcomes. (And I suspect I’m about to be vilified for saying that.)

    Finally – I will say that I’m less than impressed by the transparency on the 501missionplace site. I think that for a lot of people, the fact that this is a for-profit venture WILL matter. You should be extremely clear about that, and not bury that lead on the join page.

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Holly, thank you so much for your feedback!

      I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling from other associations as well, and I can say whole heartedly that we don’t view ourselves as being competition to anyone. Like you, we just want to provide members what they need and if they don’t find it here no one’s going to try and stop them from leaving. I think a lot of associations seem to be overlooking the fact that we’re trying to provide a resource for a very specific niche of the nonprofit community – those who are the leader of their organization. My being at 501MP doesn’t make me want to cancel my NTEN membership – NTEN is niched to the larger nonprofit community with a tech slant on all it offers: you are my favorite community I belong to!

      I really appreciate your comments on the transparency of our for profit nature. That’s definitely something we’ll make more clear. I know that our thinking was that most online membership communities aren’t not-for-profit and we didn’t think people would assume any different about 501MP, but we realize now that because we’re a community for non-profits the idea that we’re a nonprofit ourselves is the conclusion many people are arriving at.

      Much gratitude for all you do at NTEN – I know #ntenthanks was yesterday, but I don’t think I actually thanked the people responsible for NTEN, just my amazing peers and friends you brought me.

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Holly, thank you so much for your feedback!

      I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling from other associations as well, and I can say whole heartedly that we don’t view ourselves as being competition to anyone. Like you, we just want to provide members what they need and if they don’t find it here no one’s going to try and stop them from leaving. I think a lot of associations seem to be overlooking the fact that we’re trying to provide a resource for a very specific niche of the nonprofit community – those who are the leader of their organization. My being at 501MP doesn’t make me want to cancel my NTEN membership – NTEN is niched to the larger nonprofit community with a tech slant on all it offers: you are my favorite community I belong to!

      I really appreciate your comments on the transparency of our for profit nature. That’s definitely something we’ll make more clear. I know that our thinking was that most online membership communities aren’t not-for-profit and we didn’t think people would assume any different about 501MP, but we realize now that because we’re a community for non-profits the idea that we’re a nonprofit ourselves is the conclusion many people are arriving at.

      Much gratitude for all you do at NTEN – I know #ntenthanks was yesterday, but I don’t think I actually thanked the people responsible for NTEN, just my amazing peers and friends you brought me.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      We’re certainly going to take what you’ve given us and improve on where your concerns are. I’ll be sure folks don’t misunderstand what they’re getting into.

      I guess I felt that people would understand that an education site isn’t a nonprofit. I’ll be very clear.

      The “for-profit horning in on the sector to make a buck” thing is funny to me. I give to charities monthly. The nonprofit sector asks for my buck all the time. Two or three times a week at present. That we’re able to provide a low cost education solution for people to improve their nonprofit missions is part and parcel of my larger plans to help humanize business. It’s funny that I’m being perceived as looking to make a buck off nonprofits.

      • Anonymous

        I have been on the boards of probably 20 non-profits. And usually the non-profits start strong and then fail. It is not pretty.

        I would much rather have a for-profit group that has their money on the line and is not going to quit when the going gets rough.

  • http://twitter.com/steveames Steve Ames

    Hi Chris,
    I don’t think there is any issue whatsoever with charging for this idea. I find it very odd, however, that you cannont see what you’re buying – the 501 Mission Place site is well designed, and the copy is slick, but who knows who is participating? Who can tell if anyone is participating besides the four founders? And what does the service look like?

    I love the idea, but there’s nothing to tell me that there is anything behind the site – so it costs me $27 to see if there’s any value. I think that is a mistake.

    I’ve started this conversation with Estrella, too. It seems, well, not too different from spam unless you know one of the founders…

    Best,
    Steve

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Hi Steve,I’ll jump in here instead of going back to our email exchange :)I don’t see us ever mentioning who our members are on the frontgate part of the site. We see this is as a privacy issue. Just one day after launch we have a few dozen members, so I can tell you that it’s not just the 4 founders in there, and that the feedback from the members inside has been wonderful.As someone mentioned on Chris’ blog yesterday, they got exactly what they needed almost instantly after looking for it elsewhere for months. Because we’re brand new we don’t have member endorsements to include on our frontgate, but it seems like that might be a great thing to do moving forward.I do want you to know that your email last night sparked immediate conversation between the founders as we agreed with you: we can tell you more about what we’re selling without giving it away. We’ll be expanding the site to talk more about featured content so you know what to expect inside. Your comment above wondering what the site even looked like inside just inspired me to include a screenshot as well, so thank you – truly.This is a member driven community, and all comments positive or negative are of tremendous value to us. We want to create what will be useful to you and we know that our audience is far more capable of telling us what they want than we are of deciding for them.

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Hi Steve,I’ll jump in here instead of going back to our email exchange :)I don’t see us ever mentioning who our members are on the frontgate part of the site. We see this is as a privacy issue. Just one day after launch we have a few dozen members, so I can tell you that it’s not just the 4 founders in there, and that the feedback from the members inside has been wonderful.As someone mentioned on Chris’ blog yesterday, they got exactly what they needed almost instantly after looking for it elsewhere for months. Because we’re brand new we don’t have member endorsements to include on our frontgate, but it seems like that might be a great thing to do moving forward.I do want you to know that your email last night sparked immediate conversation between the founders as we agreed with you: we can tell you more about what we’re selling without giving it away. We’ll be expanding the site to talk more about featured content so you know what to expect inside. Your comment above wondering what the site even looked like inside just inspired me to include a screenshot as well, so thank you – truly.This is a member driven community, and all comments positive or negative are of tremendous value to us. We want to create what will be useful to you and we know that our audience is far more capable of telling us what they want than we are of deciding for them.

  • http://twitter.com/steveames Steve Ames

    I don’t think this is a “non profit and money” conversation – I think it’s about transparency and sales tactics. :-(

    Steve
    Elmore, Vermont

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Can you define what you think isn’t transparent. I’m fairly sure we’ve put it all out there. I mean, if you’re asking to get the content for free before you pay, that’s another matter. That won’t be happening. If you’re saying we’re not being transparent in some way, I’d love to better understand your perspective.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Can you define what you think isn’t transparent. I’m fairly sure we’ve put it all out there. I mean, if you’re asking to get the content for free before you pay, that’s another matter. That won’t be happening. If you’re saying we’re not being transparent in some way, I’d love to better understand your perspective.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Can you define what you think isn’t transparent. I’m fairly sure we’ve put it all out there. I mean, if you’re asking to get the content for free before you pay, that’s another matter. That won’t be happening. If you’re saying we’re not being transparent in some way, I’d love to better understand your perspective.

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    hah of course money isn’t evil !!! loved that point !! :) thank you for the great post :))

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    hah of course money isn’t evil !!! loved that point !! :) thank you for the great post :))

  • http://twitter.com/deirdrereid Deirdre Reid, CAE

    Members will pay for value received, particularly when it’s more value than they expected. I don’t think it matters whether those members come from a for-profit or non-profit organization. If their membership becomes indispensable, they will find a way to pay for it, either from the organizational budget or their own. I know from experience that members only balk at dues when the return isn’t there — networking (connections) or knowledge (answers and ideas) — or when they find a better or more satisfying deal elsewhere.

    What I find most interesting about all this is the influence 510MP and other online communities might have on traditional organizations. Will they see the need to nurture online communities of their own? Will their culture and infrastructure allow them to create vibrant collaborative communities? Thanks for giving us association geeks something exciting to talk and write about.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Here’s hoping, Deirdre. If we can help improve models for others, then I’m even happier. If we can learn and improve our own models to better serve our participants, then I feel golden.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Here’s hoping, Deirdre. If we can help improve models for others, then I’m even happier. If we can learn and improve our own models to better serve our participants, then I feel golden.

  • http://twitter.com/danatucker danatucker

    Chris, I am usually a lurker on here and have rarely commented. I just wanted to say thanks for donating your money to autism. My 10 year old has autism, so it is a cause near and dear to my heart. And, since I am commenting I should tell you how much I love your blog. I often pass on your golden nuggets of wisdom to other small business owners. You make me look smart all the time. So, double thanks!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      You’re very kind, Dana, and thanks for delurking. : ) I’m happy to do what little I can to help.

  • Credit Cards

    Non profit here is only for tax benefits and government grants thus I take money as evil.

  • http://twitter.com/susangiurleo susangiurleo

    Chris, I love the concept and I’m sure you’re delivering great content…like others say, the site doesn’t give me enough to go on to promote to my non-profit colleagues.

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Susan, we hear you :) This is the number one comment we’ve received post launch…not that the fee isn’t a good value proposition but that we haven’t really said what the content is or who’s creating it.

      We’ll be adding a page (or expanding those already there) that talks about featured content. While we don’t want to give it away we realize we can talk about it without sharing it in whole. Thanks for helping us make our site better!

      • http://blog.webconsuls.com/2010/11/go-right-at-501-mission-place.html Judy

        I wrote about 501 Mission Place today and I am promoting it to our NP clients. I am happy to see that I was not the only one that felt you need to show an example of what one finds behind the “front door.” When I was at Blog World 2010 expert strategists remarked that it is a good idea to give something (one article, one whitepaper) for free so that your potential “members” can convince their boards to join. Also, can it be one membership per organization? Is their a minimum sign-up (3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or is it month to month). On the home page the floating Vision Statement, Focus etc, do not stay on the page long enough for a person to read the whole statement. Very frustrating. Can you have some kind of “Contact Us” page even if it is just to ask a question or report a problem with the site.

        Estralla, I know you are busy and I appreciate all of your efforts. I wish you much success.
        Judy

    • http://twitter.com/charityestrella Estrella Rosenberg

      Susan, we hear you :) This is the number one comment we’ve received post launch…not that the fee isn’t a good value proposition but that we haven’t really said what the content is or who’s creating it.

      We’ll be adding a page (or expanding those already there) that talks about featured content. While we don’t want to give it away we realize we can talk about it without sharing it in whole. Thanks for helping us make our site better!

  • http://www.theemotionmachine.com Steven

    “Every nonprofit and charity I know needs money to exist. They shut down all the time from lack of money. Seems to me that money is the lifeblood of every nonprofit I know, because just sitting around wearing ribbons and wanting to change the world isn’t really helping many people, is it? Systems need resources to survive. I charge a small amount of money per month with the goal that you’ll figure out ways to make much more than that for your organization based on the information the group gives you.”

    This resonates with my general belief about non-profits. Many can be organizations designed to help very worth causes, but money is, as you say, the life-blood of resource management. If they can’t manage their money then maybe they don’t deserve to be eating up resources unproductively.

    • http://www.theemotionmachine.com Steven

      You can probably help more people by being profit-driven and then being philanthropic AFTER you have built a great business.

    • http://www.theemotionmachine.com Steven

      You can probably help more people by being profit-driven and then being philanthropic AFTER you have built a great business.

    • http://www.rallyearth.com Craig Tilley

      I agree and that is why we have links to a great resource called Charity Navigator so our visitors can see how the non profit is handling there money.

    • http://www.rallyearth.com Craig Tilley

      I agree and that is why we have links to a great resource called Charity Navigator so our visitors can see how the non profit is handling there money.

    • http://www.rallyearth.com Craig Tilley

      I agree and that is why we have links to a great resource called Charity Navigator so our visitors can see how the non profit is handling there money.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who does consulting and contract work for small non profits I am all for 501 Mission Place. In fact I joined yesterday morning as soon as I saw Chris mention it on Twitter. But since I’ve brought it up to my network all I get is resistance. Most EDs and Development people, that I know at least, are not as comfortable with web and this sort of education model is foreign to them.

    I really hope it flies though because there is a lot of potential and it is needed information. But it is up to not just the founders of 501 Mission Place to make it happen it is up to all of us to bring value to it. I get way more quality content from the paid forums I am a member of (also a 3rd Triber) because the cost weeds out folks. Spend time on free forums and networks and you’ll know what I mean.

    • http://twitter.com/deirdrereid Deirdre Reid, CAE

      What if you compared it to a list serv or discussion forum? Are they familar or comfortable with those? I’m amazed at how some execs loooove list servs but would never consider social media.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Quite interesting, Daryle. I’m interested in knowing what method they learn from currently. Mostly offline stuff?

      • Anonymous

        Nonprofits learn from a variety of places.

        Most EDs and Development People only listen to other EDs and Development People. It is built into the tenure and promotion process and their culture.

        With the cutbacks of the last few years, fewer non-profits are doing inservice–unless it is required by their licenses or government regulations.

        Other non-profits are run by good people who are so busy putting out fires, they don’t have the resources–or energy–to learn new skills.

        But remember, there are lots of different kinds of non-profits. The Professional Golf Association is a non-profit. Hell, they could afford to fund your whole program.

      • Anonymous

        Nonprofits learn from a variety of places.

        Most EDs and Development People only listen to other EDs and Development People. It is built into the tenure and promotion process and their culture.

        With the cutbacks of the last few years, fewer non-profits are doing inservice–unless it is required by their licenses or government regulations.

        Other non-profits are run by good people who are so busy putting out fires, they don’t have the resources–or energy–to learn new skills.

        But remember, there are lots of different kinds of non-profits. The Professional Golf Association is a non-profit. Hell, they could afford to fund your whole program.

      • Anonymous

        A lot of what Mary said is true. (the NFL is a 501)

        The EDs and Development people I am connected fall under the category of having way too much on their plate to set aside time and resources to get involved in an online community. Like Mary stated they learn a lot by watching what others are doing.

        They will also attend conferences, sit in on conference calls, buy books, and attend the occasional webinar to learn new things.

        Currently I am in the process of producing a weekly podcast that relates to this stuff. Based on my limited (and very unscientific research) it seems like something that might fit into the schedule of EDs and NP leaders. But I also know that many folks are still not familiar with podcasts and how easy they are to subscribe too. Time will tell if my efforts are worth it.

        In my opinion more free content would help draw people into 501 Mission Place. I bought in instantly because I know you from the internet marketing hat I wear. I think a bit more trust building would help. A free webinar or two for example. That is my 2 cents.

        • Anonymous

          Not all parts of the NFL are 501′s, although they do have charitable arms, just FYI.

        • Anonymous

          Whitney the NFL itself is a 501(c)(6), just FYI.

  • http://www.youintegrate.com Kneale Mann

    Chris, you are doing great work my friend and it is well overdue for industry and not-for-profits to work together in the bright light of day. As you point out, they work together now. I have consulted a few not-for-profits in my career and it’s magical when you can ask them – even behind closed doors – to imagine just for a moment that they are running a FOR profit business. If they look at donations as revenue and the bottom line is tied to helping those in need, the exercise can garner real helpful business ideas that can in-turn help the not-for-profit organization.

    The two are not that different and a strategic plan is paramount. As far as charging them for your services, we all need to keep the lights on or we won’t be much help to those who need it when our bills aren’t paid.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Great thought, Kneale. Thanks for the perspective. I appreciate your input.

  • http://www.rallyearth.com Craig Tilley

    I love the cause, Chris and agree with your view on “reduced” rather than “free”. My company raises money for nonprofits in everything we do. We actually give 25% of our earnings from online sales to charities that users can vote on. Nonprofits have a fund raising account that is, in some cases, a very large percent of their earnings from donations. So they have the budget to pay for things that would benefit the organization. It is how they spend it that makes or breaks them.

  • Chuckpass

    I agree with you Chris. I volunteer for a non-profit and know there are price points other than free.
    You are running a business with overhead and (I hope) some measure of profitability in order to stay a viable entity. I personally appreciate the knowledge and insight you freely share. If I had to put a $ value on the impact you’ve had on how I think/act, I could not afford it. So I can chose to continue to reap the benefits of what you give away every day, take the plunge and try this new service, both or neither. Thank you

  • http://twitter.com/MimiMeredith Mimi Meredith

    As a veteran of the non-profit sector (marketing and fund development) I heartily applaud all 501 Mission Place has to offer and have already sent the link to several non-profit colleagues. What a great tool. Way to grow goodness, Chris!

  • http://www.smartstartcoach.com Smartstart

    Hi Chris,

    It was encouraging to read your post and all the comments and see how many folks recognize that non-profits are businesses. They have all the same infrastructure requirements, marketing, motivational and management challenges for-profits do.

    We work with both types of clients teaching business planning and other management skills. I explain the objectives of each type of business this way:

    For-Profit Companies: Make more money than we spend.

    Not-for-Profit Companies: Raise more money than we spend.

    I think it’s a fundamental error for businesses operating in various industries and either of these sectors to tell themselves they are different from all others and have “unique” needs and circumstances.

    In my experience (which is quite extensive now), all businesses have the same requirements for sustainability and growth: people, processes and technology. How well they do and how well they grow, depends on their understanding of these core elements and their ability to manage them effectively to meet the demands of their business objective.

    We’re not born knowing how to do that. It requires education and practice applying the lessons to build the experience and expertise. The cost for that needs to be included in the operating budget. Like you, we are willing to work with non-profits and help support them in delivering their mission — some of what we offer is available to anyone free, the rest must be paid for. No one learns fiscal responsibility if everything is free. [That goes for our kids too!]

    Just my two cents…

  • http://ajleon.me ajleon

    The irony of this is that people who think Non-profits that should receive everything for free are usually running organizations that are not financially sustainable. Besides, $27 a month is *ridiculously* inexpensive. Most Non-profs’s spend more money on pencils. :)

  • http://Www.blistmarketing.com Brandon Yanofsky

    Something I think a lot of people forget is that even non profits pay employees. Technically the only difference between for profit and non profit is that non profits can’t distribute profit to owners.

    When people begin looking at what non profits really are and do, I think they’ll begin to realize that there is nothing wrong with what you’re doing. In fact, offering the discount for non profits is noble.

  • stephanie baldwin

    Chris,
    What a great collaborative project, my hat is off to you on 501 Mission Place!
    Having created, headed up and volunteered at non-profits I describe the difference like this: a non-profit is a business that does not pay taxes. It seems to work!
    I have also raised funds successfully for numerous non-profits (as well as on Wall Street) and I would be delighted to offer my expertise to the project at any time.
    All the best,
    Stephanie

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    There are plenty of products that people buy that match what seems to trouble you.

    If I make it clear that it’s for-profit, why is that so difficult to understand? You know the difference between for-profit educational facilities vs. the other, don’t you?

    I’m pretty clear on what qualifies a nonprofit vs not but thanks for the education. I’m not equating myself with nonprofit fundraising. I’m saying that instead of just giving you my money, I’ve built a team and am delivering education that will stretch further than just my dollars. Totally different than your response.

    I’m not sure where you see the budget idea as an afterthought. Might have been in the wording of my blog post. Money’s at the heart of every nonprofit I know. You? My point was a bit muddy in the post, so I can see where there’s some confusion.

    As for seeing what’s behind the fence, I put up a video that shows it, and that’ll be on the site shortly. You’ll get a chance to see what it’s all about, if that’s an area of concern.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • http://twitter.com/celestew celestew

      Re this point: “If I make it clear that it’s for-profit, why is that so difficult to understand? You know the difference between for-profit educational facilities vs. the other, don’t you?”

      Yes, I do. I am responding in particular to this thought:
      “I guess I felt that people would understand that an education site isn’t a nonprofit.”

      My point is that given that most educational endeavors in the U.S. are nonprofit, one should not be surprised that an educational site such as yours may also be assumed to be nonprofit. I am not commenting on your transparency per se, just on the assumption underlying your surprise about people’s confusion.

      I look forward to seeing the video. I would love to be able to recommend 501 Mission Place, but like a commenter above, need more to go on.