The Business Edge Blog

August 31, 2010

Start With Why

I spoke to a group of non-profit executives at a Lunch and Learn session of NICNE – Northern Illinois Center for Non-Profit Excellence last week. The topic was “Using Business Planning to Impact Growth and Address Change”. I added a subtitle of “Starting with Why”. I used snipets from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why video from his TED presentation. Here is the complete video for you.

So, what does this have to do with Business Plans? What does this have to do with Non-Profit organizations?

I suggest that much like Jim Collins’ Good to Great, a non-profit needs to get the right people on the bus. The staff, the Board members, the volunteers, the funders and supporters all need to know the Why of the organization.

Often non-profits can spout great statistics of what they have done, how they do it, and then ask for your time, talent and treasure to help them continue to do so. But, as Simon points out, we may not have connected yet with the part of the brain (The Limbic System) that drives behavior. We need to connect deeply with the emotions of the audience. That’s the Why.

Let me use an example of a great new Non-Profit in my area.

The what: We provide birthday gifts to children up to 18 years old, who under vaired circlumstances may otherwise not receive recognition on their special day. A party is also celebrated each month in their honor.

The how:  Our focus is to work with community centers, churches, and other organizations that serve children……..

This is where many non-profits stop.  They talk about what they do and how they do it.  But the heart tug that gets people emotional about your cause and engages the Limbic System of their brain to take ACTION is the Why.

THE WHY of Rosie’s Birthday Club:  Every child deserves to feel special on their birthday!

That information got people in the room at the NICNE presentation to say things like “That’s just wrong!” (that some children are not made to feel special on their birthday), “What can we do?”.   Isn’t this the reaction that we’d love to have when we talk about our cause, our product, our services?

If you’d like to know more about Rosie’s Birthday Club, click here.

Be sure to listen to the video to understand the resoning behind starting with your Why, followed by your How, ending with your What. 

Every business plan should start with the Why.  Make it something that will get an emotional reaction from your readers.  Engage them – and get them prepared to take action!

If you are a business owner, a non-profit staff member, Board member, volunteer or financial supporter, be certain you know the Why of the organization and can clearly articulate it.  The goal is to connect with the audience’s emotions (Limbic System) and get them to take action – to buy or to support.

Questions?  Comments?  Let’s chat!

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for sharing, Holly. When I started at Habitat for Humanity, I thought the “why” was to provide affordable housing opportunities to people who cannot qualify for a conventional home loan.
    But after years of visiting potential applicants, I believe a big Why is that children cannot focus on their education and personal growth in a home environment that lacks stability and safety. Parents who work long hours or second jobs to pay for high-priced rental housing cannot focus the appropriate attention on their children. The same children who try to study at a table next to drafty windows or windows nailed shut or in chairs above rodent traps while watching questionable activity out in the street.

    Good luck with Rosie’s Birthday Club!

    Comment by Tonya Thayer — October 18, 2010 @ 12:58 pm | Reply


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