I was recently coaching a new and very enthusiastic client that literally received her 501(c)(3) designation the day before our meeting.   I was also excited that she had just received her first donation as well - off to the races!  She had gathered lots of research, had a multitude of tasks and she was ready to dive into all of them.  

As has become customary for me, I asked if she had a budget and could she tell me about the board of directors she had assembled.  The room got noticeably quieter.  I hadn’t asked her to shame or embarrass her but it was clear that she hadn’t quite gotten to those.  I suggested that before anything else she focus on a Budget and her Board.  I then joked that I wished I had a third B so I could suggest focusing on The Three B’s.    Without missing a beat, she suggested Branding!  Loved it!  

I’m guessing a few of you - or even many of you - may argue in favor of other areas besides Branding.   You may even question my other B’s.  But in a world where simplicity can help, putting ideas and activity into short and memorable arrangements can help.  So perhaps you’ll find thinking of The Three B’s helpful in your work whether it’s launching and building a nonprofit or other businesses - here’s a bit more on all of them:

Branding: The Red Cross, McDonalds, CocaCola and the list goes on.  So do the number of books, experts, webinars and so much more related to branding.  Suffice to say that it’s critical that the impact of your nonprofit and its importance to the world is clear, concise and easy to understand.  Logic models, mission and vision and values statements are all wonderful tools that can live in your grant proposals, on your website and even presentations when you have an audience’s full attention. But in today’s age of limited attention spans, you need to be able to say, share and post what your charity stands for.   

Budget: Have you created a real budget?  By the way, this is not to be confused with an equally important concept, a Realistic Budget.  What I’m referring to is a budget that encompasses all the true costs of running your nonprofit including expenses you may not presently pay in cash.  A prime example is Your Valuable Time.  By the way, if you’re a founder who’s running the show, take extra notice!  Consider what it would cost to replace you if (and I’m pretty sure you want to) keep your nonprofit as a going concern.  You’d need to go out to the market and find someone equally qualified to do what you’re doing.  Another typical example:  contributed work space.  If whomever is donating the space sells the building or gets a killer offer for the rent, what will it cost you to go out and find a replacement space?  These items should be part of what you show as an external budget to funding partners.  They represent the real costs of running your nonprofit.   

Board: So now you’ve got a brand and a budget.  Now you’ll need to raise that budget and your board should be a key source of support.  How solid is your Board of Directors? Do they have the capacity to help you build out the infrastructure to create a long-term sustainable organization.  Do they have the connections to build a network of support?  And finally, do they have the plain old cash to consistently make viable contributions to your nonprofit.  If you can answer yes to most of the aforementioned questions, awesome!  If on the other hand you’ve either never considered them or come up with a hard no for most, you’re early enough in the game to do a board assessment so you’re not stuck with the board you have and can build the one you need.  

Hope you found these quick tips helpful.  If you are looking for a SCORE mentor for your nonprofit, you can ask for me by name, Robert Grabel, at

The Three B’s to Focus on Now That You’ve Got Your 501(c)(3)