Pretty hand waving - so much easier than actually doing any work!Watching the opening scenes of a beauty pageant is my favorite, because of the way the women wave as they strut by. Despite their gorgeous, toned and mostly naked bodies with huge eyes and huge hair perched on huge heels, all I can see is the handwaving. Invariably it appears contrived and forced, but as ubiquitous as their smiles with those huge teeth.

This kind of artificially sincere handwaving can also be found in many nonprofit organizations: my favorite example is of the well-intentioned suggestion of “why don’t we just have a casino night?” variety. It looks good, plays well with a big audience but there is really not as much there as needs to be. Any project requires some thought, some structure, some planning and execution. Those that offer handwaving solutions to issues can mean well, for sure, but with little idea of the hour to day to week organization required to make that plan bear fruit.

I guess my biggest beef with the handwavers is twofold: in the detail and the time requirements. It is one thing to come up with the big idea, it is another to show up at 9 am and have to figure what to do next. My experiences have been that the handwavers are never there are 9 am to make that first call.

Recently there was a question posted online about managing a nonprofit, and an answer that was provided. To me this is a perfect example of non-helpful handwaving, and I have responded to each point in kind. There are 5 parts to this answer, and in the spirit of being that tangible and not at all handwavy, I would like to address each one and add something to each. So, you have been warned, this is long, but we’ll answer a different question over the next 5 posts:

Question: “How does a non-profit gain traction?”

Answer: Here are a few things that you can do that won’t cost you much:

1. Get a designer to design a classy and effective logo for your organization. I am sure there would be people willing to do this for free given the nature of your venture. You can also post this requirement on design and freelance forums inviting designers for the job.

Cindy comments

Let’s begin with the first line: get a designer:

  • Who do you call?
  • What do you ask?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long will it take?
  • Do you have your specs done?
  • Can they produce in the format you need? Do you know the format you need?
  • How many changes can we make?

A Classy and Effective Logo for your organization:

  • Who will decide what is classy or effective?
  • What color, or colors, shape, size, images?
  • What is that logo supposed to convey, what is its message?

This is info you must provide to the designer. This means really knowing your mission and message. Who has the decision making authority to determine which design is chosen? What is the process for making that decision? Who else gets a say?

Now that you know what you need a designer to do for you, and you have found one, will they do it for free? What is the trade-off for them? How big a design job will this be that you want to request time, talent and energy as a donation? What plans do you have for acknowledging this effort for your organization?

If you post this opportunity online, are you prepared for the technical questions that you may get? What kind of art, how it will be used and reproduced, who ‘owns’ the art, does it need to be trademarked or copyrighted?
You have received a few calls back and want to move forward: how do you select the designer, how will you communicate, how quickly will you expect them to produce and make changes? What will you do if they drop the ball, if the result is disappointing and/or they choose not to continue?

As you can see, the simple-won’t-cost-too-much concept is more detailed and time consuming than at first blush. For something as important as your graphic image, much thought and care needs to be applied. This is not something you will want to change, so it is important to be happy with your choice.

Tune in later this week for the second part of this series? Need some ideas and insight from someone who has been where you are? Get in touch here or call us on 310 828 6979.

Cindy Lauren - Lauren Associates - non profit consultingCindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting

As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.

Connect with Cindy: Twitter, Linkedin, Quora

Image Credit:
Burnt by Sidereal on Flickr.