Thursday, September 21, 2017
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DPT’s third year of sponsorship for THE Project included presentations from 15 teams and 11 schools. The students were polished, enthusiastic, and engaging as they addressed the problem of improving the affordability of higher education in Michigan. Keynote speaker, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, kicked off the awards presentation by talking about the importance of making college more affordable and keeping talent in Michigan, saying “Talent is the currency for economic development.” He concluded with a call for employers to hire disabled Americans (click to learn more).

DPT’s Henry Morley addresses the student teams

The Problem

Michigan ranks 45th in the Country in terms of Higher Education affordability for its residents. Michigan student loan debt is growing at an alarming rate and ranks tenth highest (as of a 2012 study). We spend a little more than half the amount on education as the national average per state. Lastly, state governmental support for higher education has been cut since the recession. Things are in rough shape and we need a plan to fix it all. As part of THE Project 2015, the student teams put a project together to resolve this situation. Read more on THE Project website.

Congrats to the Cornerstone University team – 2015 winners of THE Project! The winning team had a creative self-funding solution and was engaging, enthusiastic and professional in their presentation.

THE Project - First Place - Cornerstone University 2
The winning team from Cornerstone University pictured with Lt. Governor Brian Calley – Madison Drew, Nathan Mahoney, James Hardman, Brad Orr, Julia Martin

As a local partner to many Michigan-based organizations, DPT is proud to support this event that focuses on improving higher education in Michigan – ultimately making Michigan residents more employable and productive, creating a better economy for everyone in our community. As a part of the event, we also participated in THE Project’s annual Reverse Career Fair where businesses could interview participating students for internships and other employment opportunities. For more information, please contact

Thursday, 16 April 2015 13:05

Do all the good you can - ROI for Nonprofits?

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In a previous blog post we outlined a number of areas in which a nonprofit can benefit by leveraging for-profit business strategies and tactics. One of those areas is looking at the concept of investment versus costs. Many nonprofits focus on driving down administrative costs, thinking of it as “overhead” instead of an investment that will drive future growth and greater impact in your community. Investing in efficient processes and systems can help you generate more donations, provide more services, and ultimately help more people. The “how” might be different than a for-profit business, but the concept of measuring the value generated from your efforts and investments in these areas is still a worthwhile activity.

While driving down nonprofit administrative costs is often internal, that perception is also heavily driven by demanding donors and foundations. Websites such as and give readily-accessible information about the percentage of nonprofit income dedicated to fundraising and administrative costs, in comparison with the funds allocated to programs and service delivery. Because donors are demanding to know the numbers, you need to be able to defend the value in investing in marketing, process efficiency, and operational improvement projects to ultimately help more people. Just like in the for-profit world, it’s all about getting a return on that investment.

sample pie chart

A great example from the for-profit world is looking at marketing return on investment (ROI). They understand that a dollar invested in marketing services, should drive three times that amount back in sales. Similarly, for-profit businesses regularly invest in information systems to support operational efficiency. As a nonprofit, thinking more about the efficiency of your operational and client delivery processes can free up time and potential dollars to provide additional services. If you can be ten percent more efficient, then you have ten percent more to invest in helping more people.

If you’re ready to step out and make investments to propel your nonprofit forward, here is a key way to get started and “defend” your spending:

Develop a business case. Nonprofits typically think in terms of lowering their ratio of admin costs to service delivery dollars, instead of investing funds strategically to drive even more donations. Instead of making decisions off the cuff, developing a business case is a valuable for-profit technique that nonprofits should leverage. Develop a solid business case, involve a comparison of both benefits and costs, and align decision making around investment instead of just cost.

Whether its spending time and money on fundraising, marketing, or improving the operational side of your nonprofit, basing your decisions on return on investment will help you fulfill your mission and provide more services, ultimately, helping more people.

If you have questions about developing a business case, we’re here to help. Please get in touch to learn more.

Thursday, 09 April 2015 13:54

National Bike Month & Risk Management

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May is National Bike Month and it is celebrated in communities across the United States, culminating in National Bike to Work Week.  Here in Grand Rapids, the celebration is called "Active Commute Week" and is more focused around ditching your car and using alternative, “active” methods of transportation for getting to and from work. The result is not just promoting healthy life habits, but also about exploring public transportation options and making choices that are better for our environment.  I’m happy to say that DPT has been participating in Active Commute Week every year since I joined DPT and we have had a lot of fun encouraging each other to increase participation.


As many times as I’ve participated in and advocated for Active Commute Week and National Bike to Work week, I did not participate in Active Commute Week in 2014 because I left DPT to pursue a lifelong dream of bicycling across North America (read about it on At this time last year, I spent my days working on project plans for my DPT work, while I spent my evenings doing much the same for our upcoming bicycle trip. There were far too many sleepless nights on my part, fretting about everything that could possibly go wrong on the bicycle trip – until it struck me that this was just another project to plan and that a risk management plan would help me sleep better at night.  This picture below shows just some of the risks we planned for:

risk management

I’m happy to say that we didn’t have to resort to our contingency plan for Risk #8 – we employed our mitigation plan and bicycled up every mountain we encountered – except for the one that we had to abandon after our rear hub blew out 3 miles from the top.  And when that hub blew out, we went to the contingency plan for Risk #10 and had my sister mail our spare rear wheel to us in Republic, Washington.


You don’t have to be a cross-country bicyclist to give Active Commute Week a try. The risks are very easy to manage. Pump up your tires, lube your chain, plan out a route, leave a change of clothes at work the day before, grab your cell phone, get on your bike and ride! President John F. Kennedy said, "Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."

We are currently preparing for another year of fun activities and gimmicks to get our DPT team more active for Active Commute Week 2015.  We’d love to hear from our blog readers out there regarding how your organization participates in Active Commute Week / National Bike Month!  If you’re thinking of getting into bicycle commuting, Active Commute Week is a great time to give it a try!​ Check it out at the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycling Coalition website: or contact me (Shawn Rathbun) at DPT!

And if something is keeping you up at night, it's probably time to work on your Risk Management Plan.  We at DPT can help with that too!

Monday, 30 March 2015 10:41

Conquering the Ever-Elusive BHAG

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DPT Henry head
Read more about Henry Morley


I was honored to speak about leadership at the recent Christian Business Round Table (CBRT) Summit event. While the theme for the day was the “8 C’s of C-level Leadership,” my presentation was more focused on operational leadership traits and approaches. Together with Dave Nemmers, CEO at Midstate Security, we talked about how conducting an “Operational Reality Check” as a key input to your business strategy and vision can significantly increase the odds for meeting your business performance goals. Dick Rolfe, CEO of the Dove Foundation, talked about the importance of setting BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) in your business strategy development.

In our previous nonprofit post we outlined four areas in which a nonprofit can benefit by leveraging for-profit business strategies and tactics. Now we will share some key points from a recent presentation we did at the West Michigan Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFPWM). Specifically, we will talk about how you can create an environment that allows you to manage ALL of your relationships with people, not just the donors.Tweet: Create an environment that allows you to manage ALL of your relationships, not just donors @dptsolutionsinc #nonprofit #CRM

JohnWesley Quote

Typically, nonprofits have a high level of sophistication around the processes and systems used to manage donor related information and activities. After all, this is the life blood and often what fuels the nonprofit to deliver on its mission. It is also common that other functions across the organization do not coordinate well with processes, donor management systems and data. Similar to what happens in a for-profit organization, functional “silos” result in many different special purpose systems and processes being maintained. No matter the cause, this results in your nonprofit team not being able to effectively coordinate to manage relationships at an organizational level.

Here are some indicators that your nonprofit may need to think about a new way to manage relationship information:

  • Households receive duplicate communications (or none) from different parts of your organization
  • Simple tasks such as address changes require multiple updates in many systems
  • Each of your functions (development, marketing, service delivery, memberships, board relations, volunteers, etc.) have separate and distinct “people records” that are not integrated
  • Targeted marketing is either not possible or often hits the wrong target audience
  • Simple things like creating a Christmas Card List becomes a "seventeen spreadsheet circus"

For-profit businesses solve these challenges with a CRM or Customer Relationship Management strategy and solution. In this context CRM is beyond a “system”, but instead a way to organize and manage the information and processes connecting your nonprofit with the people and organizations that are important to your mission. For most nonprofits, this could include volunteers, donors, clients, boards or steering committees, sponsoring organizations, foundations, benefactors, etc.

CRM solutions provide much more depth and value than maintaining your individual or organizational records. It also provides one “source of truth” for managing the entire relationship with the person or organization – no matter how simple or complex. The robust relationship, communication and task management functionality that for profit organizations have leveraged from CRM for many years in their sales and customer services processes can also be leveraged in a nonprofit. With it, you can:

  • Enhance your donor, marketing and service delivery processes to drive efficiency and focus on the success of your mission
  • Have a common platform that creates visibility into all communications, tasks, statuses and other key information critical to your nonprofit
  • Create more efficient cross-system integration opportunities with the central person or organizational record being used as a common bond
  • Enables a consolidated set of reports, dashboards and views to have visibility to the breadth of your relationships

CRM solutions are not cookie cutter. While the points above are generalized – the exact benefits that your nonprofit would receive are specific to your unique situation and mission. Whether or not you already have a well-defined donor management process and information system, CRM can allow your organization to more effectively manage all of the important relationships beyond just donors.

Next up in our nonprofit blog series…… ROI for nonprofits?

Thursday, 12 March 2015 13:27

Free Download: Continuous Improvement Checklist

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Are you a leader of a nimble and innovative organization? 
Put yourself and your organization to the test!

Many successful leaders craft their own blueprint for success, but at some point the results from those best practices hit a plateau: Product lines and services that were once differentiators can eventually face stiff competition or market saturation. Productivity and quality will suffer when a sense of urgency is missing and short-term goals lack variety.

To achieve stretch goals and refresh blueprints, competitive, leading organizations create a culture where innovation is valued and goals are dynamic. Tweet: Competitive, leading organizations create a culture where innovation is valued & goals are dynamic. @DPTsolutionsinc

Continuous improvement, a lean concept, is a well-documented and repeatable methodology meant to harness the power of transparency to goals, operational flaws, and accountability. It encourages a culture of experimentation, creating leaders out of its management and innovative contributors out of its staff.

Whether you’ve launched a continuous improvement program or are interested in doing so, download DPT’s printable Continuous Improvement Checklist and challenge your commitment to excellence.


Click the image for instant access to the checklist:

continuous improvement checklist



JohnWesley Quote

Most nonprofit employees are truly driven by the desire to serve their mission and constituents. Your purpose matters, and working for a nonprofit is at the heart of what makes you tick. So why would you want to treat your nonprofit like a for-profit business?

Carefully selecting and using some of the tried and true business principles from the for-profit world can help you serve more people and expand your outreach with the same amount of resources. Finding the right strategies to help you gain efficiencies and become more effective at how you serve can only be a good thing when it leads to helping more people and ultimately furthering your mission.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing some strategies you can leverage to grow your nonprofit:

1. Manage all of your relationships, not just donor relationships (Read the blog post)

Do each of your organizational functions have separate and distinct “people records”?  As an efficient nonprofit, you should be able to easily evaluate and manage multi-dimensional relationships as well as streamline and target your communications based on those relationships.

2. Recognize where you fit in the new social enterprise model (Read the blog post)

With the advent of benefit corporations that are for-profit but include a positive impact on society as well as the growth of philanthropic foundations funded by for profit companies, the lines between nonprofit and for-profit entities are continuing to blur. Nonprofits have more competition than they’ve ever had.  Have you honed your mission and adjusted your marketing strategies accordingly?

3. Focus on maximizing Return on Investment (ROI) (Read the blog post)

Many nonprofits focus on driving down administrative costs, thinking of it as “overhead” instead of an investment that will drive future growth and greater impact in the world.  We’ll discuss how investing in efficient processes and systems can help you get more donations, do more business, and ultimately help more people.  While how you do this might be different than a for-profit business, the concept of measuring the value generated from your efforts and investments in these areas is still a valuable activity.

4. Leverage sales and marketing techniques common to a for-profit business

Does everyone have good visibility into your development “pipeline”?  Are Development and Marketing working from the same playbook and information? As an example you should have a clear understanding of how a potential donor relationship can add value to your mission through other means – whether as a volunteer, member, or otherwise.

DPT’s experience in the nonprofit sector is helping implement best practices around these strategies and delivering improved performance. If you want to grow your nonprofit, and do it the right way, we hope you’ll join us over the next couple weeks as we dive into these strategies.


Join us on March 10 as we present at the Association of Fundraising Professionals about "How CRM Can Help Manage the Rest of Your Relationships Beyond Donors."

Based on DPT's experience with many West Michigan clients in the nonprofit sector - we'll be giving real life experiences and applications for using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to help manage and coordinate all of the relationships you have with your constituents and member, and provide value back to the development side of your organization.

We hope to see you there!

Details & Registration


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