Fully Funding Your Nonprofit


Nonprofits often receive funding for providing a specific service to a community, but not for the organizational infrastructure that supports the service. Running a food bank or crisis hotline is crucial work, but who is going to pay the rent, phone bill, and liability insurance for such organizations?

Donors have historically avoided funding “overhead.” Understandably, they want as much of their money going to serve the community. The problem comes in not acknowledging all the costs that contribute to providing service.

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Government Can Be A Leader In Digital Goods And Services


Back in 2002 Peter Fisher, undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury, described the U.S. federal government as “an insurance company with an army.” After all, if you look at the federal budget, benefits and military spending take the vast majority of funds. Since much of the military focuses on supply chain and distribution, you can modified Fisher’s quote to describe the federal government as an insurance company and a logistics company.

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Designing better student loans using system thinking


Students go into debt to pay for college. In the United States, the amount of student debt has surpassed $1.3 trillion, which puts it on par with auto loans. Americans like to think the student debt is an American phenomenon, but this article from the New York Times shows that students in other countries also borrow, and borrow almost as much.

Borrowing may not be American, but struggling to repay is.

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Social goods, defined

definition of social goods

This blog needs a definition of “social goods.” That’s a bit difficult, though. Even economists don’t have a clear and agreed-upon definition. So by way of definition, let’s discuss the characteristics and problems of social goods, and how those characteristics pose problems for traditional marketing activities such as design, distribution, pricing and promotion.

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Governing the commons: Making markets for water

Floating market
Fresh water may be the ultimate community shared resource or commons. It’s a finite and renewing resource. It’s essential for life as we know it. We spend billions of dollars on space exploration searching for it on other planets. How we make use of this scarce shared resource now and in the coming decades will say a lot about our social nature. Marketing principles about pricing and distribution can help us make better use of water during times of drought.

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Innovative government program design: the Dutch Postcode Lottery

Dutch Postal Code Lottery logo

In Washington state, where I grew up and where my sister and brother-in-law are teachers, lottery winnings have been dedicated to education since 2000. In 2012, the state Supreme Court found the state in violation of its own constitutional mandate to fully fund public education. And in 2014, the same court found the state in contempt of court for not yet allocating funding. Clearly, lottery funding doesn’t make a difference in Washington state.

Is there a better way to design lotteries for the benefit of society? The Dutch Postcode lottery could provide lottery program directors with a blueprint.

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Pricing as promotion: reverse tolls

Bicycle path only (Israel road sign)

Once when I was a teenager, I was pulled over by a police officer while I was riding my bike. It was very early on a June morning, before 5 a.m., and I was biking to my summer job on a landscaping crew. I didn’t get a ticket, but needed to convince the officer that I wasn’t an early morning bike thief.

Recently, officials in Lillestrom, Norway, were pulling over bike riders for another reason–to pay them a “reverse toll.”

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Do they teach bureaucrats marketing?

Harvard Logo

I admit this post’s headline can sound a bit snarky, but it reflects a legitimate curiosity that struck me recently. After all my posts here about a lack of marketing know-how in the public and social sectors, I started wondering if public and social leaders are ever introduced to marketing concepts.

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