Jan 28

Impact and Activation

Nonprofiteers. A made up word. Noun. Meaning: Those rockstars who decide that the profession of working for others, a mission, not-so-great pay, tough hours, constant fundraising… and passion… is important and life-balancing.

But, my fellow nonprofiteers… we have a itty-bitty problem. We have a weird relationship with those in the “for-profit” sectors of our communities. We think, dare I say do to its engraving into our DNA, that “.com” peeps and “.org” peeps are different kinds of cats, with different kinds of agendas, outcomes, and inherent goals. We think those things above I mentioned – working for others, a mission, not-so-great pay (well, sometimes not this one), tough hours, constant fundraising (some might call this “sales” or “clients”) – are foreign to those who wouldn’t know an IRS Form 990 from a 1-900 phone number.

But a little secret here? We all fundamentally come from the same space, and strive for the same thing.

Impact and Activation.

Whether we are tying to build new customers (for-profit) or new donors (nonprofit), each of us are trying to make connections, impact a decision, and activate a motion (buy a thing or write out a donation check).  But in the end, after we stripped down all that “defines” us… it comes down always to Impact and Activation.


Go Ahead. Make My Day. Rent this movie tonight. ~Guy Who Talks To Chairs at GOP Conventions

Go Ahead. Make My Day. Rent this movie tonight. ~Guy Who Talks To Chairs at GOP Conventions

Seeing the fruits of our labor is something many of us (dare I say all of us) want to experience. Painters complete a work, step back, feel their effort has come to a payoff.. .then show their work.  Whether a large opening at a Gallery or a small gift to a loved one, impact is what is coming next. And seeing this – experiencing it – is a fantastic outcome. But this impact is also seen in the car designer who knows her 2020 concept car is turning heads and getting rave reviews… and thus interest and potential sales.

See it? No matter if it’s for a profit or for a mission … the payoff is impact. Pride in one’s work. Seeing that excitement in an audience member. A customer’s decision for your product over another once seeing all its “bells and whistles.” That’s impact.


If Impact is the Lightening. Then Activation is the Thunder.  It is never enough to have one without the other.  Like President Barlett would say on “The West Wing“… once you get that buy-in (Impact), than it’s time for the “What’s Next?” (Activation).

Nonprofiteers look to donors to attend events (impact) and then give during the live auction (activation) then  tell folks about their awesome time (even more activation).  Volunteers turn into donors in nonprofits; customers turn into brand loyal customers (for-profit)… Activation gives the impact life beyond the immediate moment. And activation encourages the next impact moment to be born.

Don’t think these lines of .COM and .ORG are blending? Just check out any social enterprise venture. Or a B Corporation. Or an L3C Company.  Heard of Tom’s Shoes? You get a pair of shoes because you want/need a pair. And your purchase triggers a pair to go overseas to kids who need shoes.  Every eat any Ben and Jerry’s? They have a part of their business strategy – and most importantly their business philosophy – a commitment to give a portion of their profit to charitable organizations.   Ever see the Statue of Liberty? Back in the 80s she needed a little facelift.. and cause marketing, especially by American Express, came to the support of the Old French Lady, with the company give a portion of all purchases to her support.  Nonprofits more and more are seeing the value (and importance) to find revenue generators beyond the traditional FICE (foundation, individuals, corporations, events) and looking to enhance revenue in ways to mimic for profit ventures. (example, an afterschool art program creates an art gallery to present, promote, and sell the work to the public. These proceeds are split between the student artists, and the program’s operations). .COMs and .ORGs borrowing from one another, and making stronger businesses… and therefor communities.

.COM vs. .ORG

.COM vs. .ORG

This blurring of the lines isn’t bad.. it is actually a fantastic progression in our community development. Tying giving into commerce. Supporting missions through the every buying and selling of goods and services. Moving from the “annual giving” to the “philanthropy of the everyday.”  It’s cool to see this change in giving. Cool to see consumers looking to get great products that also support causes they support.  And imagine what is coming next? A generation brought up with community service as a function of their education (talk to a Millennial; you will see someone who had community service as a part of high school graduation or college coursework), looking to make their mark.  What a great ride this will be!

But don’t despair, my fellow nonprofiteers… our sector is making tons of Impact and Activation. Be proud to be in the sector, and the work we are deliver to our communities.  You are definitely a ROCKSTAR. And you for-profiteers? Yeah, you’re music is something we can dance to as well.. Rockstars all around.

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