Expert Advice

13 Productivity Tools For Nonprofit Professionals

April 1, 2019

By Johanna Weiermann

We have all wished for more hours in a day, whether it be to complete a task, achieve a goal, or meet a tough deadline – but nonprofits have a unique responsibility to be productive. Why? Because supporters, donors and volunteers entrust us with time and money to make a difference with minimal overhead.

Waste in a nonprofit is not just time and money forgone; it can also lead to a lack of trust and impact your ability to achieve your social mission.

Luckily, there are tools to help. We’ve compiled a list of 13 productivity tools for collaboration, day-to-day operations, social media and content creation – including helpful features, pricing (nonprofit discounts), and apps.

Collaborate with your team

1. Slack for internal communication

Everything from event planning and important documents to team photos and announcements: they all live tidily together in Slack.

With features such as group channels, private messaging, polls, to-do reminders, and mobile conferencing all in one searchable interface, Slack can be a one-stop-shop for team collaboration.

Pricing: Slack For Teams is available for free, paid plans from $6.67/month per user (billed annually), 85% discounts for NGOs available


2. Trello for task management

Trello is a free tool for visual task management with a focus on flexibility. It can work just as well for your own personal to-do list as it does for managing large projects.

One of the most popular ways to use Trello is with the Kanban method. This involves visually moving a task through different stages until it’s complete. By seeing what tasks you have To-Do, In Progress and Done, the visual board can give you a real-time view of your progress so you can easily see how you’re tracking.

Pricing: Free, forever, additional overviews, integration and security from $9.99 per user/month (when paid annually), discounts for registered non-profits and educational institutions available upon request


3. Mindmeister for brainstorming

Mindmeister takes your organization’s mind-mapping to the next level. This tool allows you to collaborate with unlimited team members and see changes in real-time. Nonprofits can use Mindmeister to facilitate virtual brainstorms and share ideas visually.

Pricing: Free for up to 3 mind maps, Business packages from $7.49/month per user, special NGO and academic plans available upon request


Pricing & Nonprofit Discounts:





Slack For Teams is available for free

Paid plans from $6.67/month per active user (billed annually)

Free, forever

Additional overviews, integration and security from $9.99 per user/month (when paid annually)

Free for up to 3 mind maps

Business packages from $7.49/month per user

Nonprofit discount of up to 85% Nonprofit discount available upon request Nonprofit discount available upon request


Uplift your day-to-day

4. NordVPN for cyber security

Working for a social cause can often mean travelling and not always with secure networks. NordVPN can help provide a safe way to stay online and available while on the move. This tool protects your IP address so you can feel at ease accessing personal and work accounts on the road, using public Wi-Fi, keeping your browser history private and blocking unwanted ads.

Pricing: Paid plans from $2.99 per month (when purchasing a 3 year plan), 30-day money-back guarantee


5. WeTransfer for file sharing

WeTransfer is an online file-transferring platform which allows you to share files up to 2GB with your colleagues anywhere in the world. The free version is easy to use and ads are non-intrusive. Integrations are also available with other productivity tools such as Slack.

Pricing: Free, forever. WeTransfer Plus subscription from USD$120 per annum


Pricing & Nonprofit Discounts:




Paid plans from $2.99 per month (when purchasing a 3 year plan)

30-day money-back guarantee

Free, forever

WeTransfer Plus subscription from USD$120 per annum

Nonprofit discount available upon request No discount for nonprofits


Boost your social media

6. Hootsuite for social media management

Managing social media can become chaotic when posting regularly and planning ahead across multiple channels. Hootsuite can help you manage your social media activity by facilitating content curation, automating workflows, scheduling posts and helping you track their success with real-time data.

Pricing: Free 30 day trial, paid plans from $39/month


7. Canva for social media design

To paraphrase an old adage – a well crafted graphic speaks a thousand words. Canva is a drag-and-drop tool designed to simplify the process of creating graphics for social media, even for the least creatively-inclined.

If you need more visual guidelines, check out our recent blog highlighting 3 must-know design principles for social media.

Pricing: Free, forever. Additional features and graphics in paid plans starting from $9.95 per user/month (when paid annually)


8. Landscape for social media resizing

Social media image sizing can be a laborious process. Landscape makes it easy and can give you time that can be better spent.

Simply upload the JPG/JPEG, PNG, or GIF file to Landscape, select which networks it’ll appear on, and the tool will resize it for you. This tool is free of charge and available here.

Pricing: Free, forever


Pricing & Nonprofit Discounts:





Free 30 day trial

Paid plans from $39/month

Free, forever

Additional features and graphics in paid plans starting from $9.95 per user/month (when paid annually)

Free, forever

Nonprofit discount available upon request Premium plans free for registered nonprofits N/A


Create visual content

9. Pexels for free stock images

Pexels offers a vast selection of free and high quality stock images captured by passionate photographers, which allow you to complement and convey your message.

Pricing: Free, forever


10. Magisto for professional videos

57% of people who watch nonprofit videos go on to make a donation^. Magisto can help you create customizable videos for your nonprofit, adding a human dimension to your cause that resonates with your audience, without having to be an expert in video editing.

Pricing: Premium plan = $4.99/month (paid annually), professional plan = $9.99/month (paid annually), business plan = $34.99/month (paid annually)


11. Mapme for building interactive maps

This tool helps you build interactive maps with ease – no coding skills needed. Mapme allows you to add locations, photos, videos and 360 tours with custom categories and filters. By creating your own maps, you can help your supporters visualize the scale and geography of your nonprofit’s impact.

Pricing: Free evaluation account, paid plans from $29/month (paid annually)


Pricing & Nonprofit Discounts:





Free, forever

Premium plan = $4.99/month (paid annually)

Professional plan = $9.99/month (paid annually)

Business plan = $34.99/month (paid annually)

Free evaluation account

Paid plans from $29/month (paid annually)

N/A No discount for nonprofits Nonprofit discount available upon request


Copy editing

12. Grammarly for spell-checking content

Grammarly’s AI-powered writing assistant helps you compose more concise, mistake-free content. The free version detects critical spelling and grammar errors to ensure that every message your nonprofit delivers is high quality and professional.

Pricing: Free, forever. Paid subscriptions from USD$11.66/month (when paid annually)


13. Evernote for note-taking

Evernote is an all-in-one note-taking tool that can help you declutter your thoughts and organise your ideas wherever you are. This tool makes your note-taking paperless, which not only has a positive environmental impact, but also makes writing, accessing and storing important information easier.

Pricing: Free, forever. Paid subscriptions from $9.99/month


Pricing & Nonprofit Discounts:




Free, forever

Paid subscriptions from USD$11.66/month (when paid annually)

Free, forever

Paid subscriptions from $9.99/month

Nonprofit discount may be negotiable Nonprofit discount available upon request


Each of these 13 productivity tools are designed to make your life easier, but too many can hurt more than help. It’s important that you evaluate and decide which tools best support the way your team works, so you can enable productivity based on your specific needs. By strategically implementing these tools, you can help your nonprofit work smarter, not harder towards your social goals.


Johanna Weiermann supports 180 Degrees Consulting in her role as a Global Marketing Director. She draws from a specialized background in environmental responsibility through her MSc programme of International Fashion Management. Johanna began her career in marketing, product management and procurement to learn the rules of the game, before switching to organizations with a social and/or environmental impact, such as Dariadaria/Dariadeh, Magdas/Caritas and, most recently, as a lecturer (GCU London, BU London) for Responsible Marketing and Business Ethics. 


^According to Nonprofit Source, 2018
*All prices are in AUD if not specified otherwise 

Available online
Windows desktop app
OS X app
Android app
iOS app

5 Social Media Strategies for Non-Profit Organizations

January 23, 2019

By Shruthi Sharma

We often hear that a consumer must be exposed to a brand 7-8 times before they recognize it. Similarly, an individual needs to hear about a nonprofit approximately 20 times before they actively notice the organization’s name.

As audiences become increasingly bombarded with information, nonprofits must effectively promote their vision on relevant channels to be noticed. Nurturing a prospect from awareness to loyalty, and ultimately, advocacy, requires multiple points of contact across channels. Social media is one of these channels which cannot be ignored in any digital marketing strategy.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at five research-based approaches through real business cases, and learnings that you can leverage to succeed in social media.

1. Run effective campaigns using the CURVE Model

Litterati uses Instagram to create a digital map of litter in the world. Using the hashtag #Litterati, people can geotag waste with associated keywords and timestamps to indicate what, where and when litter is found.

This kind of social media engagement enables nonprofits to track the “problem”. Hashtags allow audiences to see their contribution to the larger footprint and increase their likelihood of further action. This is a popular method to involve communities in social goals.

To build this type of campaign, the CURVE model – Curiosity, Uniformity, Relevance, Value and Emotion – offers a guide to creating relevant content for social media audiences.

Let’s deep dive into how Litterati used the CURVE framework:
– Litterati arouse Curiosity by having a live dashboard that showcases the impact they create with every piece of litter tagged.
Uniformity and Relevance are maintained through posts on Litterati’s social media pages (Instagram and Facebook) which are related to litter, ocean cleanups and the importance of taking action to remove litter from the planet.
Values and Emotions are evoked by Litterati when they question their audience about the impact of their behavior on the planet. This arouses a sense of global citizenship and affiliation with Litterati’s cause.

2. Enhance visibility by encouraging user-generated content

There are four types of content:

Shared and earned content are the outcome of a passionate community of advocates for your cause, but owned content can motivate this engagement. Social media communities also give nonprofits valuable insights into the impact of their activity on their audience in real-time.

Letters of Love send colorful, vibrant postcards to refugees in Syria, written by volunteers in live sessions or online. Everything from the composition to the delivery of the letters is shared on social media. This way, Letters of Love not only showcase their impact internationally, but also inspire volunteers to remain involved.

3. Use social media influencers and brand ambassadors to increase credibility 

A brand ambassador is an expert or representative of a market who, through their association with your brand, raises your organization’s credibility.

Influencers can be broadly categorized into micro-influencers (local bloggers), celebrities or renown experts. Selecting the influencer that best fits your audience will depend on your desired outcome. For example, local ambassadors at schools or universities could be used to create network effects from the grassroots for an education-based nonprofit.

Niine, is a menstrual hygiene nonprofit that aims to bridge the gap between the 18% of Indian women using sanitary pads and the remaining 82%. Niine is affiliated with celebrity influencer, Akshay Kumar, who extended his support to their social media movement, #18to82 (or ‘The Niine Movement’). With a social media following of over 20 million per channel, Akshay Kumar’s promotion of the campaign attracted awareness on a national scale. This collaboration between influencers, nonprofits and audiences not only attracts visibility to the campaign, but also adds credibility to the brand and cause as a whole.

4. Use cross-promotions to expand your audience

Co-marketing with other organizations builds credibility and creates new brand evangelists (people who go the extra mile to connect with your brand).

Toybank, who promote the ‘Right to Play’ for all children, host a monthly cross-promotional gaming event with a popular café (Qtube) in Mumbai. This event is advertised on the social media channels of both organizations and aims to attract Toybank volunteers by demonstrating the benefits and importance of play in a child’s life. Toybank also collaborates with large organizations to cross-promote play sessions, toy collection drives and fundraising.

5. Build a community

The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network

This quote highlights the importance of communities for nonprofit organizations. Organizations can begin to do this through storytelling strategies to spark interest about their cause with their target audience.

Niine promotes ‘The Niine Movement’ at schools and colleges to educate their audience about menstrual hygiene.They expel stigma by facilitating regular conversations, and engaging their community through talks, radio shows, guest lectures and competitions among business school students. These community building activities give a multichannel dimension to the usual social media strategy, giving the nonprofit more points of contact.

Regardless of which strategy you implement, there are fundamental principles of engagement that should span across any social media content. The iPACE model – Information, Product/Service, Awareness, Convenience and Engagement – acts as a checklist to ensure your content evokes the most interest from your audience.

To illustrate how the iPACE model works, let’s take a look at Beyond the Classroom (BTC) Education, an organization who has leveraged social media to promote tolerance through leadership programs for children in their formative years.
Information – with uncluttered messaging, users can quickly navigate through BTC’s social media channels and website to get the information they need.
Product/Service – BTC’s social media channels and website clearly highlight the leadership programs and workshops on offer.
Awareness – through regular cross-channel updates, BTC’s target audience (children and adolescents) are able to keep informed on available programs.
Convenience – BTC makes it convenient for users to register for programs online with appropriate call to actions and unobtrusive reminders to register.
Engagement – BTC constantly engages with their community to build an ongoing connection and reinforce their vision of tolerance.

Social media can be more than just a channel. These 5 strategies help nonprofit organizations manage their social media content effectively to voice and enhance their impact. With effective keyword strategy, user-generated content, cross-promotions and influencer advocacy, you can unlock the potential of social media to maximize your organization’s impact.


* All nonprofits mentioned in this article are past 180 Degrees Consulting clients.


Shruthi Sharma is a Global Business Development Director at 180 Degrees Consulting. She is currently a post graduate student, specializing in marketing at SDA Bocconi Asia Center. She founded the 180DC SDA Bocconi Asia branch, while also serving as Marketing Director. She works in the healthcare sector and has been involved with multiple nonprofits including Make a Difference, Toybank, and Toastmasters International.


3 Must Know Design Principles For Your Social Media Content

January 13, 2019

By Maysa Wozeer

Social media is one of the most powerful and rewarding tools for non-profit organizations of any size. When used well, social media is a great way to empathize with your audience and generate brand awareness. With an overload of social media posts from large organizations with generous social media budgets, it can be difficult to make your message stand out.

Communicating your message visually through infographics, videos, and quotes will make all the difference in capturing your audience’s attention as they skim through their newsfeeds. Creating visual content that is relevant, succinct and aesthetically appealing is the key to engaging with your audience online and increasing your organization’s social media footprint.

When creating material for your social media channels, it is important to remember that the aesthetics come second to the content. Visual content needs to have a clear purpose and a message that is coherent in graphic form so your audience can digest the information and know what to do next.

Typography, color and visual hierarchy are a few basic design principles that can transform your social media posts from forgettable text into captivating material.


1. Typography

An effective use of typography is one of the most important design principles to consider when creating graphics.

Use simple fonts

It is easy to get carried away with fonts that you may like, but ultimately can be difficult to read.

Use simple fonts
Use simple fonts

Use good contrast

When playing around with your type, be conscious of the font color and how it contrasts against your background so you ensure anyone can easily read your message. This can become especially difficult when working with a background image. In that case, a call-out box often works to make text stand out regardless of the background.

Be concise

According to Facebook, audiences spend an average of 1.7 seconds digesting each post in their newsfeed via mobile devices. So, to have the greatest impact ensure your text is clear and concise.

Pro-tip: You should not be using more than 2 fonts per graphic!


2. Color

Color is an underestimated design element that can actually alter the way your graphic and overall brand is perceived. A standard color palette not only creates consistency across your organization’s marketing but can also help your audience identify your brand at a glance – just think about Coca Cola’s famous red and white brand association.

Color can also be strategically used to generate an emotional response from your audience. Humans have emotional associations with certain colors which can be used to evoke compassion and support for your message.  

Common color associations:

Pro-tip: More than 5 colors on a graphic is too much! Limit your color palette and choose one or two accent colors to really get your message across.


3. Visual Hierarchy

Ordering the information within your graphic based on the importance will help your audience digest the content quickly and easily. Using visual hierarchy, you can instantly get your key messages out to your audience by drawing their attention to the most important part of the graphic.

Manipulate font, color and alignment to direct the attention of your audience to the most important elements of the graphic. Generally, the bigger the element, the more importance you are placing on that element.

Pro-tip: Use an accent color that stands out in tandem with a larger/bolder font to make the key part of your message stand out.

By implementing these straightforward design principles, you can create simple yet powerful social media posts that will intrigue and engage your audience. Better yet, you don’t need to spend hundreds on professional graphic design software. There are many affordable tools available online that provide access to great design resources including free customizable fit-for-purpose templates so anyone can produce professional quality social media graphics.



As Design Director for 180 Degrees Consulting, Maysa Wozeer leads the organization’s global design and digital brand strategy. With a degree in Design Computing from the University of Sydney, Australia, Maysa is passionate about transforming ideas into digital, visual assets through graphic and user experience design, using her expertise to innovatively foster social impact in the not-for-profit sector.

The Three Key Factors of Success vs. Stagnation

December 24, 2018

By Taylor Hawkins

As much as we hope that success naturally follows a great cause or idea, this is too often not the reality. This is a common circumstance we see with organisations in the nonprofit sector. Although nonprofits exist for worthwhile causes and are more than capable of creating impact, they can also be held back by a lack of strategy to grow and develop their organisation to its full potential.

In order to grow an organisation in any sector, it is fundamental to have a growth strategy that is suited to your organisation, your resources and desired outcome.

1. Your Organization

In developing your growth strategy, it is essential to take into consideration the culture and nature of your organisation. If the mechanics of your growth strategy are not aligned with the needs, strengths and working methods of your people, you will inevitably reduce the results you are able to achieve.

2. Your Resource

An effective growth strategy should be based on the concept of leverage, using the resources you already have to achieve or create something that you wish to have. This requires you to evaluate what assets you have access to; this can include your workforce, networks, finances, time and market positioning. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it provides a starting point for evaluating the areas of strength and weakness in your resources and by doing so, enables you to tailor a growth strategy that makes the most of what you have.

3. Your Outcome

In order to achieve your desired outcome, you need to have a clear idea of what it is and how you intend to get there. For that reason, it is important to not simply partake in numerous and varied strategies for ‘increasing general market awareness’, but rather, focus your efforts on the specific type of attention and support you are seeking to achieve. By aligning your efforts with your outcome, you are not only more likely to achieve it, but you are also ensuring that your efforts do not go to waste or fall by the wayside.

These considerations can act as highly effective building blocks for the development of your growth strategy. Once you have taken the time to understand these variables, you can then start to establish a nuanced approach that is suited to your specific organisation and circumstances that deliver far greater returns than a generalist approach.


As a Director of Business Development for 180 Degrees Consulting, Taylor Hawkins works to support the financial sustainability of the organisation through both outbound lead generation and revenue driven project development. With a background in Law and Communications, as well running several of her own businesses, Taylor is highly engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how bringing creative insights into the not-for-profit sector can accelerate social impact.

Dreamers vs. Doers in Growing Organisations

September 3, 2018

By Taylor Hawkins

Working tirelessly to change the world is the lifeblood for non-profit organisations. This mission-driven way of life often attracts the most socially conscious individuals, and it is only the most motivated and headstrong of these people that can start and lead world changing organisations.

While dreaming of a better world is not an uncommon trait, the combination of desire and drive for positive social impact is scarce to say the least – as not all ‘Dreamers’ are ‘Doers’.

So when hiring volunteers, the uncomfortable question we must ask is – are dreamers really the best people for the job?

The answer, unfortunately, is no.

Everytime a growing organisation brings on a new volunteer, you invest precious time to induct and train them to join your team, which is why volunteer attrition can be a huge cost.

So, when bringing on extra hands to lighten the load, organisations must be careful to not mistake enthusiasm and empathy for someone genuinely suited to the role and its demands.

Whichever phase of the scaling process you are in, here are some pointers to ensure that your volunteers have both the attitude and the ability to add value to your organisation…

1. Resilience

If changing the world was easy, we would already be living in Utopia. With this reality in mind, if your intention is to push for social change, you need to be resilient and borderline relentless. You can’t shy away from difficult situations and you must be willing to work tirelessly for your cause. So, be sure to bring on people who want to fight for your cause, not just celebrate it.

2. Execution

Dreaming of ideas and ways to change the world is a wildly creative and exhilarating way to spend your brain power. The process becomes significantly less glamorous when it comes to working out how to execute on these ideas. Particularly in the not-for-profit sector, these processes can be arduous and thankless for lengthy stretches of time. Be sure that the people you are bringing onboard are not just in love with the ideas, but also the execution of them.

3. Realism

When bringing someone into your team, you invest in them and, of course, intend for them to develop an ongoing relationship with your cause and organisation. Because of this, finding volunteers who are realistic in their objectives and how much they can commit, ensures that you recruit individuals who are invested in your organisation as more than just a passing interest.

Without these established and realistic expectations, you risk having to put important work aside once again in order to replace them.

Finding and keeping your ideal team can be a constant battle as you grow, but by making sure that you pick the right people to invest in from the beginning you can reduce the cost on both your time and wallet.


As a Director of Business Development for 180 Degrees Consulting, Taylor Hawkins works to support the financial sustainability of the organisation through both outbound lead generation and revenue driven project development. With a background in Law and Communications, as well running several of her own businesses, Taylor is highly engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how bringing creative insights into the not-for-profit sector can accelerate social impact.

Scaling Sustainably

There is no shortage of world problems to solve – and no shortage of nonprofits, big and small, trying to solve them.

For every powerhouse global nonprofit, there are thousands of grassroots organizations trying to expand. But not all nonprofits need to have mass scale to make a lasting impact, and for those that do, there is no one golden path to becoming a large-scale organization.

Despite good intentions, promising non-profits and social enterprises can chase growth too fast and too early. So how do you know when your organization is ready? And once you’re ready, how do you scale your impact sustainably?

Nonprofit Sector Composition in the US

*Size of nonprofits refers to expenses (not revenue)
Source: GuideStar, Overall Sector Composition of US Nonprofit Organizations (2017) n= 208,064

Build your foundation

To lay your foundation for growth, begin by defining a strong mission with your destination in mind. Your mission must be a clear and powerful call to action – especially to those carrying it out. But that doesn’t mean having a meticulously written mission statement. Instead, it is about knowing what you want to achieve, setting milestones, testing the waters, and mobilizing your resources to make it happen.

Consider whether your expansion will take a “go upstream” or “expand the picture” approach – that is, whether your growth with pursue the root causes of the social problem you want to solve, or address all aspects of the problem.

Following the model set by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, growth often requires “disciplined design” informed by practice, research and iteration.

“Disciplined design requires research and evidence, but it also welcomes new ideas and unintended consequences. It allows for messiness, iteration, and deep inquiry into what exactly works and why.”

While the strength of your mission is important, expanding your impact also depends on your human resources, experience, cost model, financial stability and appetite for the risk involved. The best way to assess your readiness is by piloting to scale. Use a test case to gain insight into your strengths, weaknesses and the overall feasibility of your organisation at scale – and leverage your findings to develop an expansion plan iteratively.

Know your growth strategy

There are three general trends by which a non-profit can grow:

Source: Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Grow? Bruce Holley and Wendy Woods, Boston Consulting Group. July 2016

1) Steady-state growth – following a constant rate of growth each year

Steady-state expansion is the typical experience for small to medium-size nonprofits. With a slower but predictable growth rate, you’re able to set realistic targets, budget effectively, and accommodate for operational challenges as and when they arise. The benefit of this is safety and time to adjust. The drawback is – it may take longer to achieve the impact that you want and, following a bad year, it can be difficult to recover.

2) Ramping-up growth – slow growth at the outset of the expansion plan, with significant increase over time

Ramping-up growth allows for flexibility. As your organization grows, so do your costs and strains on resources. But there are also unknowns – gaps in capabilities and processes that only come to light in your pilot. The ramping-up strategy gives you time to consider your options and build capacity with a long term view in mind, before the force of rapid growth kicks in.

3) Accelerating-growth – strong growth in the short term, increasing thereafter

Accelerating-growth is about taking advantage of a window of opportunity, but this can be tough to execute if your organization is not prepared for a pivot or acceleration in strategy (for example, seeking a partnership that can help your organization without first considering what value you offer them). These windows of opportunity don’t last forever, so when they do arise, it’s essential to have done the legwork and placed your organization in a strong position to act quickly.

Leverage strategic partnerships

Working with like-minded or complementary organizations can increase your nonprofit’s scale of impact exponentially – provided you have aligned goals and expectations.

Similar nonprofits are the most logical alliance that support growth through an exchange of knowledge, skills, capital and even fundraising sources. By leveraging partnerships, your organization can seek out broader geographic impact and tap into resources to help you carry out your mission more effectively.

Nonprofits can also partner with for-profit corporations or social enterprises that see the wellbeing of the community and environment as fundamental to their long-term profitability. This collaboration can lead to funding opportunities or access to strategic support such as brand awareness or consulting services.

For example, 180 Degrees partners with market-leading consulting firms to provide training programs for our Consultants. This enables our branches to offer a professional quality of service to nonprofits and social enterprises without the price tag of a corporate management consulting firm. In exchange, these consulting firms gain brand and reputational benefits, as well as access to our network of high-achieving, socially minded graduates.

Regardless of planning or partnerships, managing a nonprofit effectively is not an easy task. Growing it sustainably is even harder. Not only do nonprofits need people with incredible ambition and patience, but you also need a dose of good luck and good timing. What you can control is the readiness of your organization to seize opportunities and achieve a lasting impact at scale.


Contact us to learn more about how 180 Degrees Consulting can help your organisation grow sustainably.







From Small to Scale: Three Trade-offs for Smaller Nonprofits Trying to Get Big. Peter Kim, Suzanne Tollerud and Gail Perreault, Nonprofit Quarterly (May, 2018).

Can Nonprofits Scale to Solve Community Problems?. Charley Ansbach, Comstock’s (April, 2018).

5 Ways Nonprofits Struggle (and how to overcome them). Fast Company (March, 2018).

Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs: Pathways, Partnerships and Fidelity. Sam Larson, James W. Dearing & Thomas E. Backer (September, 2017)

What Does the Nonprofit Sector Really Look Like?. Kerstin Frailey,Guidestar (June, 2017).

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Grow?. Bruce Holley and Wendy Woods, Boston Consulting Group (July, 2016).

Three Things Every Growing Nonprofit Needs to Scale. Kathleen Kelly Janus & Valerie Threlfall, Stanford Innovation Review (November, 2016).

Four Approaches to Nonprofit Sustainability. Rachel Light & Ariel Zwang, Stanford Innovation Review (September, 2016).

Scale and Sustainability – What’s a Funder to Do? Carina Wong, Nonprofit Quarterly (December, 2015).

Challenges and Considerations in Scaling Nonprofit Organizations. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, Education Grantee Convening (2009).

8 tips for creating and delivering effective presentations

August 10, 2018


1.   Start strong

You never get a second chance at a first impression. Think back to the last presentation you heard – do you tend to remember your first and final impression more than the rest? Most people do.

That is why it is important to deliver a powerful opening and conclusion with confidence. To grab your audience’s attention, start with a hook.


2.   The 10-20-30 Rule

Keep in mind Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule. The guide is to avoid more than 10 slides, present for less than 20 minutes, and use a minimum of 30-point font in your deck.

These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but with these principles, you can get all your important points across using your slides as a visual aid – not an abridged report.


3.   Tell a story

Become a good “raconteur” by ensuring your script follows good storytelling conventions: give it a beginning, middle and end; have a clear arc that builds towards a climactic point.

To keep your audience engaged, make sure they appreciate each slide, whilst also being curious about what they will learn next. If the size of your audience is relatively small, allow dialogue while you are presenting. Ask your listeners to pose questions and enable them to become active participants in your ideas.


4.   One thought at a time

Think about planning your presentation so that just one new point is displayed at any given moment. Bullet points or icons can be revealed one at a time as you reach them.

Deliver one concise thought to one engaged person by speaking to a different member of the audience every 5-7 seconds. That way you’re not spreading eye contact aimlessly; you’re make connections, talking “to” your audience rather than “at” them.


5.  Make sure your slides pass the glance test

Lengthy paragraphs in your report or presentation will kill engagement. Your audience should be able to glance through your content and quickly understand what you want to say.

One way to achieve this is by choosing your words carefully. A few well-chosen words can have a much stronger impact than a long, wordy paragraph. So make sure you keep sentences short and remove unnecessary words to ensure that you convey your message as clearly as possible.


6.  The Goldilocks Theory

Keep the presentation simple – avoid the temptation to fill your pages with cheesy effects and focus instead on simple design basics.

Three important ones to remember are: do not use more than 3 fonts, put dark text on a light background, and avoid clutter.

Like the ‘Goldilocks theory’, try to give your audience “just the right” amount of detail. Be careful as too much information might bore them, and not enough of it would discourage action.


7.  Using images and icons

Use visuals and images when they add important information or make an abstract point more concrete.

There are two schools of thought about images in presentations: some say they add visual interest and keep audiences engaged; others say images are an unnecessary distraction. The best option is somewhere in the middle – using visuals that add value or understanding to your message.


8.  Lead the next steps

Consider your objective. For a pitch, the objective is to sell your idea. For consulting presentation, the objective is to persuade the audience to implement your recommendations.

To prepare, get to know who you are speaking to and what they care about. Are you presenting to a board that will approve your recommendations based on cost vs. benefit? Or a marketing manager who wants to meet their targets with the help of your social media strategy?

Think about what motivates your audience, what your recommendations will achieve, and use your presentation to mobilise your audience towards action.


For more info turn to




“Volunteer Engagement” – Shayne Shepherd

May 19, 2014

There are several ways that non-profit organisations can seek to improve volunteer engagement.

Shayne Shepherd


One of the biggest challenges for a non-profit organisation can be keeping their volunteer base active and engaged in their activities. A strong understanding of what motivates volunteers is essential for facilitating their meaningful participation in a non-profit organisation.

Engaging someone to do something for their own reasons is much more effective than trying to force them to do it for your reasons. This understanding is quintessential in ensuring long-term relationships with highly engaged volunteers. Stanley R. Parker has classified volunteer motivations into four areas: altruistic (unselfish), rewards based (expecting [derivative] future rewards), cause-serving (advancing religious, moral or political causes) and leisure (personal enjoyment & relaxation) (Parker, 1997). An awareness of these motivations can assist non-profit organisations to facilitate high volunteer engagement.

What are the challenges?

Volunteer engagement starts with obtaining the right people. Achieving this requires knowing what is needed from volunteers to help carry out the organization’s tasks. From there, it is useful to segment the potential volunteer population and utilize demographics to target those individuals or groups that would offer the best fit for the organization’s needs. These groups become the organisation’s target segments.

At the risk of oversimplifying potential target segments, the following general age-based observations may be useful. People in their late teens and early twenties, particularly students, have flexible time and more of it to offer to non-profits. They are also more technologically savvy than most other age groups. Where flexible time and technological know-how are important to an organisation, this age group would be an appropriate segment to target.

When the volunteer position requires more experience, but is less time intensive, working age people at the younger end of the spectrum (those in their late twenties through to late thirties) can offer much to the needs of the organisation through skills based volunteering.

For governance and guiding support, help can often be gained from people with substantial experience in those particular areas of volunteer-need. An example would be reaching out to senior accountants or finance professionals to provide financial acumen to the organisation’s Board of Directors.

Lastly, a growing group that has much to offer to non-profit organizations are retirees. With significant professional experience and greater leisure time, many retirees are increasingly keen on making a difference to society through involvement with charities and socially conscious enterprises. They continue to invest much of this leisure time to mastering new technologies as well.

A simple example to illustrate the benefits of segmenting can be seen in a recent engagement undertaken by 180 Degrees Consulting. The client was in need of skilled volunteers to help upgrade some of their facilities. The consulting team identified young tradespeople within appropriate geographic areas as a target segment to engage. With the absence of family demands, this group had more time available, which gave them the opportunity to further develop their trade skills. In this way, the client was able to use both rewards-based and altruistic motivations to obtain assistance for the renovations.

Once the appropriate target segments have been identified, different communication channels will be more appropriate than others to connect with the particular target groups. Referring back to our age groups, if you were seeking a board member for your organization, you may consider posting this on your website and Facebook page. However, you may find it worthwhile to place an advertisement on LinkedIn that is more targeted, or in a business publication. These more targeted forms of communication are more likely to connect with the people that the organization needs, and who are also interested in furthering the organization’s cause. The key to identifying the right channel is to put yourself in the shoes of your target segments and identify the media that they use every day.

Training: enabling development for joint benefit

Training may not be required for every type of volunteering activity that the organization needs. However, it can be a powerful tool in giving volunteers something of value in addition to the positive association they will receive from giving back to the community. This makes it a highly valuable rewards-based motivator, but can also be a trigger for other motivators.

Of particular interest in this respect is the study that Martha L. Barnes and Erin K. Sharpe completed on Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto, Canada, an area that has attained national and international recognition for volunteer and community engagement. (Barnes and Sharpe, 2009). Dufferin Grove Park is a 14.2 hectare urban park that engages volunteers across a wide variety of park activities. It was found that where volunteers could develop their skills, they had higher engagement with the Park’s activities. Examples were seen in the building of a cob structure and doing outdoor theatre shows. In these experiences, the volunteers were able to build their skills by taking ownership of these initiatives, which acted as a reward for their contribution. However, this was also their preferred way to spend their leisure time and pursue their hobbies, which further enhanced their engagement and commitment levels. Barnes and Sharpe observed that where a non-profit organisation better understands the motives of target groups and, where possible, individual volunteers, it can foster higher engagement by effective needs satisfaction.

In 2011, 180 Degrees Consulting established a volunteer management framework for an Australian non-profit organisation. The framework involved training in a more formal way than that experienced by those involved at Dufferin Grove Park, but had similar successes. The training involved developing people’s public speaking skills to enable them to contribute to the organization’s goals. In receiving this training and practicing the tools provided, the attendees received a rewards based motivator for their involvement, but also were exposed to the raison-d’être of the organisation and built a bond that created buy-in to the organisation’s mission.

There are both informal and formal methods of training and development a non-profit organisation can offer volunteers. Enabling them to benefit from skills development can significantly help to build their engagement and commitment to the organisation.

Retain: keep those who make a difference

As most non-profit organizations can attest, not every individual who initially volunteers goes on to stay in the organization indefinitely. People move cities, have changing priorities through time and in some cases, may not derive the same value from their contribution as in the past. Finding ways to retain people who are critical and ensuring adequate succession planning for when they do leave is important.

A tool for retaining volunteers that 180 Degrees Consulting has recommended to clients in the past is to create hierarchies for volunteers. Providing volunteers with a position of authority and added responsibility can be an impactful motivator to help volunteers to grow with the organization and take on more responsibility as the organization’s needs expand. Marylene Gagne and Valérie Millette have found that such expansionary involvement increased performance, satisfaction and motivation of volunteers (Millette and Gagne, 2008).  It must be noted, however, that this will not always be appropriate for an organisation. This is particularly so where the organization requires a high degree of flexibility and a more informal culture. Indeed at Dufferin Grove Park, its informality with the volunteers was seen as part of its success in volunteer engagement (Barnes and Sharpe, 2009).

Another important element of retention is ensuring that volunteers are able to meet their leisure objectives through their involvement. Volunteers drove some of the most successful activities undertaken at Dufferin Grove Park, such as the outdoor theatre and farmers market, because of their interest in theatre and gardening. Many individuals decide to become and remain volunteers because of the “ability to integrate their involvement with their personal lives, interests, and vocations” (Barnes and Sharpe, 2009).

Whether recruiting, developing or looking for ways to keep volunteers involved in an organization, being mindful of the four motivating factors established by Parker can greatly enhance success. By promoting initiatives that facilitate and emphasise volunteers’ satisfaction across multiple motivation factors, non-profit organisations can ensure greater volunteer engagement and commitment.

i  Stanley R. Parker, ‘Volunteering – Altruism, Markets, Causes and Leisure’ (1997) 39(3) World Leisure & Recreation 4.

ii  Martha L. Barnes and Erin K. Sharpe, ‘Looking Beyond Traditional Volunteer Management: A Case Study of an Alternative Approach to Volunteer Engagement in Parks and Recreation’ (2009) 20 Voluntas 169.

iii  Valérie Millette and Marylene Gagné, ‘Designing Volunteers’ Tasks to Maximize Motivation, Satisfaction and Performance: The Impact of Job Characteristics on Vlounteer Engagement’ (2008) 32 Motiv Emot 11.

iv  Martha L. Barnes and Erin K. Sharpe, ‘Looking Beyond Traditional Volunteer Management: A Case Study of an Alternative Approach to Volunteer Engagement in Parks and Recreation’ (2009) 20 Voluntas 169.

v  Ibid.

“Cash-Flow Forecasting in Non-Profit Organisations” – Patrick Hoermann

An illustration as to why cash-flow forecasts are an essential element in the financial planning of any non-profit organization.

Patrick Hoermann


Non-profit organizations have different performance goals and financial restrictions than for-profit organizations. Obviously, for-profit enterprises focus on maximising profits, whereas non-profits try to maximise their social impact and the benefits that they provide to the community (Harvard Business School, 1999). In for-profit organisations, generated profits can either be distributed to their capital investors or be invested for further growth. Non-profits lack this financial flexibility. Surpluses, grants and other resources must be spent on particular purposes, which are specifically identified by the donor or implied in the non-profit’s mission (Wacht, 1991).

Nevertheless, both non-profits and for-profits still have expenses. Although some non-profits use only volunteer labor, any sufficiently large non-profit is likely to require staff of paid full-time employees, managers and directors. Additionally, operating expenses such as rent and on-going program costs need to be covered. It is for these reasons that there is also a significant financial commonality between these two organizations: just like any for-profit organization, non-profits have to continuously stay financially solvent, as running out of cash will sooner or later result in financial difficulties.

So how can managers of non-profits ensure to stay financially solvent?

The key method when it comes to financial planning is cash flow forecasting. Cash flow forecasts provide a solid basis for the projection of a non-profit’s future financial situation. They allow these organizations to see when money is expected to be received and when that money will be spent. A cash flow forecast enables non-profit organisations to plan reinvestments from surpluses or the need to raising additional capital due to expected deficits.

So is it not enough to look at the balance sheets?

The simple answer is no. Balance sheets only reflect the position of a company at a certain period of time. Accounting methodology allows income and expenses only to be listed when they are incurred. Regular balance sheets are static and do not include anticipations of future events. Metaphorically speaking, a balance sheet is merely a “snapshot“ of a fiscal situation at a certain period of time. Cash flow reports and forecasts, however, are more like a “movie“ in which income and expenses are listed with time to express the financial development of an organisation (Liner and Linzer, 2006).

But why is cash flow forecasting particularly important for non-profits?

In contrast to for-profit organizations, non-profits usually do not have a regular inflow of money. Cash inflows for most non-profits typically fluctuate throughout the year. It is often the case that grants, donations and the income from fundraising occur throughout a year in discrete, rather than regular payments. It is due to the nature of these receipts and, in addition, the uncertainty of their cash inflow that a cash flow forecast is a critical planning tool for all non-profit organisations.

So what are the components of such a forecast? And how can it be practically done?

A cash flow forecast essentially consists of two components: Anticipated Cash Receipts and Anticipated Cash Payments. Both components can either be estimated through historic data or by calculating the most likely figure based on existing information.

In order to better illustrate cash flow forecasting methodology, let us consider a non-profit organization in the education sector. This organization provides disadvantaged children in rural areas of third-world countries with educational programs to increase their chances of a better life in the future. Let us call this organization “Better Education Charity” (BEC). BEC receives governmental grants of $20,000 in March, June and September, as well as grants from an endowment fund in the amount of $30,000 paid each year at the same time. The company scheduled four fundraising events, two of which are in the next half year. On average, the company gains $6,000 with such events. Membership income is $3,000 per month. Cash expenses such as staff salaries, operation costs and program expenses are based on BEC’s historic cost data. In order to obtain a financial overview for the next half-year starting in January, BEC decided to project cash flows on a monthly basis.

As seen from the calculations for BEC, anticipated Total Cash Receipts for next year are $270,000 and anticipated Total Cash Payments are $247,000. This leads to a projected annual Net Cash of $23,000, which means BEC can be content, as it will generate a surplus for the whole of the next year.

By looking at the monthly Net Cash from Operations, however, high fluctuations can be seen. In fact, in January, February, April and May, cash payments of the company are higher than cash receipts, which leads to negative Net Cash in these months. Most importantly, in February, the company is not only going to have a negative Net Cash from Operations but also a Total Cash Flow deficit of -$5,250, as this loss cannot be compensated by the beginning monthly cash balance. As a result, the company does not have sufficient money to pay the expenses, that is, the company will run out of cash in February.

How can non-profits handle such cash flow deficits?

One of the most common ways to manage a cash flow shortage is to use credit from a bank. Specially designed ‘working capital loans’ can help non-profits cover operating expenses while they are waiting for a grant or contract disbursement. Generally speaking, these loans are for the short-term only and it is expected that they be repaid as soon as the next grant is received (Zietlow and Seider, 2007).

Non-profit companies may also think about rearranging fundraising efforts according to individual cash flow needs. In this case, it would make sense for BEC to schedule the first fundraising event of the year one month earlier. The projected $6,000 from such an event in February would save the company from a cash-flow deficit in this month. Additionally, the company may ask grant givers for an upfront payment in advance of scheduled payments. In this case, this would make also sense in the long-term as BEC usually receives both Government Grants and Foundation Grants at the same time.

It may also be possible to try to delay payment to vendors. Perhaps bills that are due every month can be extended to 60 or 90 days. This would depend on BEC’s relations to its suppliers and partners.

If a non-profit has cash flow surpluses, how should they manage them?

In general, non-profits are by law supposed to spend any gained capital on their programs. With a continuous positive amount of cash, however, non-profits may also pay down outstanding loans or credits, if they exist, or consider bulk purchases of supplies in order to save the organisation money in the future. Overall though, there is a thin line between having the right amount of cash in reserve to prevent cash-flow deficits and stockpiling too much capital (CPA Australia, 2009). In addition, BEC has to critically evaluate their cash flow balances, as the company is projected to have both deficits and surpluses. It may be recommended, however, to rather keep the cash in the company in the short-term as cash tends to fluctuate. In the long-term, if BEC builds up cash, the company may consider increasing their program expenses to maximise their social impact in the sector they are operating in.

What can be learnt from this?

Cash flow forecasts are an important method in the financial management of any non-profit organization, as they help non-profit organizations to better plan for the future. Only with cash flow projections can non-profits accurately anticipate when surpluses or deficits will occur and identify strategies to deal with them.

As seen in the example of the non-profit organization “Better Education Charity”, the period frequency of such forecasts is critical. If BEC had only forecasted yearly cash flows, the company would not have realised that it was going to run out of cash in February.  To prevent financial difficulties, it is therefore not only crucial to forecast cash flows, but also to do this on a monthly basis, if not even on a weekly basis.



i  Harvard Business School, Harvard Business Review on Nonprofits (Harvard Business School Press, 1999).

ii  Richard Wacht, Financial Management in Nonprofit Organizations (Georgia State University Business Press, 1991).

iii  Richard Linzer and Anna Linzer, The Cash Flow Solution: The Nonprofit Board Member’s Guide to Financial Success (John Wiley & Sons, 2006).

iv  John Zietlow and Alan Seider, Cash & Investment Management for Nonprofit Organizations (John Wiley & Sons, 2007).

v  CPA Australia, Financial Management of Not-For-Profit Organizations (CPA, 2009).


“Non-Profits and the Big Data Revolution” – Simone Cheung

As the amount of data in the world increases exponentially every day, business models have adapted to becoming highly data driven in all  aspects, from marketing to the provision of services.  This article examines how non-profit organizations can also take advantage of the multitude of data available to them.

Simone Cheung

It is estimated that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. New technologies have meant that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years. Every time something is posted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, a purchase is made with a credit card, or the GPS feature on a mobile phone is used, the Big Data revolution expands.

Big Data has already been gaining traction in the business world for some time, with companies and scientists becoming highly data driven in every aspect of their business – from market research to providing personalized services and gaining new customers. In light of this, can we use Big Data for social good? And how can the not-for-profit sector benefit from it?

Why should non-profit organisations care about Big Data?

There are two ways in which non-profit organizations can benefit from the Big Data revolution. On one end of the spectrum, they can use Big Data to develop new programs and initiatives as well as to better target donors and recipients of aid.

This notion has been tested in the area of disaster relief. For example, mobile phone position data from the largest mobile phone company in Haiti (Digicel) was used to estimate the magnitude and trends of population movements following the Haiti 2010 earthquake and subsequent cholera outbreak.ii This led to significant improvements in the allocation of relief supplies and the quality of needs assessments following the occurrence of natural disasters, as well as during infectious disease outbreaks.

On the other end of the spectrum, Big Data can assist non-profit organizations to answer one of the biggest questions they are interested in: how do we know that what we are doing is making a difference? With the increasing pressure on the not-for-profit sector to become more transparent and accountable, monitoring and evaluation is becoming more and more important to demonstrate that programs and initiatives are achieving their objectives. Having an evidence base to better direct funding from donors is unquestionably beneficial for the not-for-profit sector.

Proving the correlation between programs or initiatives and improved outcomes is straightforward. It can usually be done even in the absence of appropriate data or rigorous methodological expertise in data analysis.  Policy-makers and donors are increasingly wanting to know more about the notion of causation. That is, they want to know whether changes in outcomes (whether they are positive or negative, or whether they are for an individual or a community or a country) can be directly attributed to a specific program or initiative implemented by non-profit organisations.

The availability of Big Data makes it much easier to establish causation , rather than mere correlation. However, it is important for non-profit organizations to be equipped with the skills to define the ‘question’ they are trying to solve, or the ‘objectives’ they are trying to achieve before launching into data analysis. Too often, organizations ‘mine’ available data to find the solution to a problem that does not yet exist.  Monitoring and evaluation should begin even before a program or project has been implemented, from collecting baseline data to tracking changes before and after implementation.

More does not necessarily mean better

The Big Data revolution is inescapable, but the risk is that the scale of data creation is now growing exponentially faster than our ability to analyze it. The sheer volume of data available can be overwhelming for most non-profit organizations, especially the smaller ones. Most non-profit organisations do not have the capacity nor the funding to make large technology investments to store, process and derive valuable insights from large datasets.

The key to enabling non-profit organizations to benefit from Big Data is to realize that more does not necessarily mean better; volume does not ensure veracity. What is needed is to identify ways to use currently available data more effectively.

There are five manners in which Big Data can create value in the social sector:

What are the challenges?

While Big Data may be a valuable tool for non-profit organisations in the new era, there are a number of barriers they need to overcome to take full advantage of the Big Data revolution.

One of the biggest concerns with the copious amounts of data available is confidentiality. With the tremendous amount of data being constantly collected and analyzed by statistical agencies and organizations, privacy has become a key concern. This is particularly the case for social organizations as they are more likely to deal with data on vulnerable population groups and sensitive topics such as child welfare, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol misuse. As a result, non-profit organisations often find it difficult to gain access to data despite the vast amount of information being collected.

While there are a number of statistical methods to address privacy and confidentiality concerns, such as suppression, aggregation and adding random noise, it still remains a primary consideration for non-profit organisations, particularly as more and more data become publicly available.

Perhaps a greater challenge associated with the Big Data revolution is the shortage of talent and resources available to fully utilise the data. This ranges from structural constraints such as computing power and software tools required to integrate, analyse and visualise Big Data, to specialised data scientist skills in integrating datasets in a meaningful and valuable way.

Despite organisations, such as DataKind, which match scientists and statisticians with non-profit organisations, to facilitate pro-bono data work, shortages in these roles still pose major challenges for the not-for-profit sector.

Skilled statisticians and data scientists are particularly important when dealing with poor quality data, which is common in many developing countries. Poor quality data requires sophisticated methods to analyse and draw meaningful conclusions from.

The future of Big Data for non-profit organizations

In the past, data collection was often thought of as merely a means of supporting financial accountability for non-profit organisations, and served as a requirement for donor funding. However, there must be a culture shift to recognize the true importance of measuring the impact and outcomes that the not-for-profit sector is achieving. This will not only ensure limited resources are directed to those most in need, but  will also allow non-profit organisations to devise more targeted programs that have greater social impact.

There is no doubt that Big Data has the potential to achieve worthy social goals and bring about lasting social change. This is particularly the case in areas such as disease surveillance, micro-finance, monitoring and evaluation, and disaster relief.

The Big Data revolution is here to stay. Data could hold the key not only to attracting and targeting donors, but also to ensuring non-profit organizations operate more efficiently and effectively to achieve truly positive outcomes. We only need to make sure that we find effective methods of maining the data to avoid drowning in it.



i ‘Bringing Big Data to the Enterprise’ IBM  <>

ii Linus Bengtsson, Xin Lu, Anna Thorson, Richard Garfield and Johan von Schreeb, ‘Improved Response to Disasters and Outbreaks by Tracking Population Movements with Mobile Phone Network Data: A Post-Earthquake Geospatial Study in Haiti’ (2011)  PLOS Medicine, 8(8) 1.