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Finally! A real page-turner for rapid growth

I’m happy to say my new bookThe High-Growth Nonprofit is hot off the press.

I kicked off the book’s launch on the Nonprofit Radio yesterday by noting why reading the book makes sense for nonprofit leaders everywhere:

  • It features proven steps to quickly double your revenue and drive impact
  • It includes tips plus the mistakes, lessons learned, and successes of others
  • It’s guaranteed to be worth the cost (it’s free)

WARNING: If you don’t read it, you’ve got nothing to lose but donor dollars and market share (yes, market share—check out page 13 in the book).

Okay, that was a bit dramatic.

But like Team Rubicon co-founder and Groundswell founder Jake Wood remarked, “The secrets behind a high-growth nonprofit are captured right here in easy to execute lessons. A must-read for a busy leader ready to spearhead their growth.”

For most nonprofits, the journey toward high growth is uncharted territory

No journey can begin without taking that all-important first step. In this case, that means adopting a high-growth outlook.

That’s why Chapter One is titled “Outgrow That 5% Mindset.” No longer can you settle for incremental growth year over year. Five or ten percent hikes likely keep things status quo, but manage to do little else.

Instead of the norm, replace the doable with desirable and startle your team with this:

What if we had no choice but to double our revenue with half the resources over the next three years?

How would they respond? Certainly, it kicks the door open for innovative, dare-to-dream thoughts.

But how can this translate into specific goals, projects, and actionable steps capable of actually doing the job?

In The High-Growth Nonprofit, I talk about leaders normally cruising at detail-free 30,000 feet and operators slogging through the day-to-day at 1,000 feet. So bringing both together at around 10,000 feet is the sweet spot.

That’s where ideas are born and given wings. It’s where groups—like visionaries and executors—meld their different superpowers and make some real progress.

For example, I’m famous (infamous?) for dreaming things up, while CauseMic’s VP Bobbi Snethen figures out how to put the right ideas into play. You probably have similar starters and finishers in your own group, yes?

But while 10,000 feet is a great place for ideas to sprout and thrive, it’s also where they can just as easily die.

Because as Chapter 18 Puts it, “Ideas Are Sh!+ Without Execution.”

What does that mean, exactly? Certainly, for big ideas to come to life, you need systems and processes that can make them actionable and scalable.

This includes technology, protocols, policies, adequate infrastructure, logistics support, and the like. You know, things.

But regardless of how good your things are, no idea gets executed without the human capacity to make it happen. Obviously, this underscores staff as your most important asset.

The problem is, there are only so many team members and only so much time in the day they’re on the job. So, understanding your nonprofit’s actual work capacity is vital.

That way, you’ll know how much more you can accomplish.


One good way of determining capacity is calculating your utilization rate.

This is a term I borrowed from for-profit groups like ad agencies and law firms. To calculate it, they simply divide their billable hours by total hours on the books and express it as a percentage.

“On the books” refers to all time spent at work plus paid holidays, vacation time, sick time, training, staff happy hours, and so on.

The utilization rate can be figured for a week, month, year, or any time frame.

For instance, if a company billed their clients for 1,000 hours in a week and the total time on the books was 1,200 hours, the utilization rate is simply 1,000 divided by 1,200, which equals 83 percent.

As a note, the for-profit industry’s average utilization rate is between 80 and 90 percent.

I’ve adapted the utilization rate for nonprofits. Obviously, there are no billable hours to deal with, but there are what I call productive hours.

Thus, a nonprofit’s utilization rate is the number of productive hours spent by all team members divided by their total hours on the books, expressed as a percentage.

And what are productive hours?

In short, they’re the hours associated directly with mission-related tasks. While only you can define what those are for your nonprofit, there are some likely candidates.

Maybe you’d include proposal writing, facilitating programs, fundraising, donor communication, and outreach.

The tricky part is only counting the actual time spent doing these things.

For example, don’t count the hours that a facilitator idly waits for clients to arrive for a program. Or the time your donor team waits around for the results of your newest email campaign.

Nor should you include the time used by administrative staff, such as the receptionist, bookkeeper, and HR. While crucial, their typical work is regarded as non-mission related.

  • Okay, so for the week, you’ve come up with, say, 750 productive hours
  • And let’s say the time on the books is 1,300 total hours
  • Thus: Your Utilization Rate = Productive Hrs / Total Hrs = 750 / 1300 = 58%

FYI, a good utilization rate for a nonprofit team falls between 70 and 80 percent. So, what does a 58 percent rate say about your group?

Assuming there’s no excessive hours of vacation, paid holidays, training, and the like, it could mean one or both of the following:

  • You’re administratively overstaffed
  • Your mission people are underutilized

Either scenario likely calls for realigning some of your team’s roles, if the below-average utilization rate remains more or less unchanged week after week.

Once corrected, you’ll have more capacity than you thought!

The High-Growth Nonprofit covers utilization, realignment, and so much more for driving productivity, impact, and revenue.

It’s yours for the asking, and the price is definitely right!