June 16, 2015

Use Leverage to Give Back

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world,” Archimedes.

 tree overhead decorativeSometimes it’s harder to give back than you think it should be. After all, you invest time and money working with nonprofits expecting your investments to help your business and community. Yet even with your investments, you’re left with the question, “Are we giving back effectively?”

The answer is yes, if you use a lever and fulcrum. I’ll clarify.

You want to move something heavy. You push against it. It moves forward an inch. You pick up a long stick, and place one end under the edge of the object. Push on the stick’s other end, and the load rolls forward two feet. We use levers all the time—to roll heavy loads, to pry the lid off paint cans, and to open doors. Levers allow us to do a lot of easy work instead of hard and often discouraging work.

So, when it comes to giving back, what makes a lever work? A strategy, or fulcrum, that matches your business goals moved close to the load you wish to lift. Effective giving involves custom designing a strategy to fit your business needs. The strategy also allows you to quickly decide where to invest your resources.

What else makes a giving back lever work? Your stick, or easy work activities—for you. You use the stick to apply your effort to the load, pushing against the fulcrum or strategy to make your work effective. Let me give you an example. An architectural firm strategically aligns with organizations that promote visual arts, historic preservation, and private school scholarships for design projects. Their stick includes sharing of mailing lists, cash, insider intellectual property about projects they’ve recently designed, and inspiring and staffing events that generate community designs—allowing them to form relationships with potential customers around a process they love.

Seventy-eight percent of business leaders rate engagement in nonprofits as urgent and important. However, given time constraints and the plethora of opportunities, many businesses giving back reactively. With hard work, this moves loads a few inches. Businesses that engineer snug-fitting strategies using easy work create a lever that energizes and grabs attention and makes movement. They give back effectively.

What’s your strategy to allow you to use easy work to give back effectively?

Picture of a fulcrum

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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