How Do You Stand Out in a Crowd?


Nonprofit organizations often offer similar services. What separates them from each other?  Is one more worthy of someone’s time, talent, and treasure? Whether its market share, philanthropic funding, or even policy and program volunteers—nonprofits are standing in a sea of others whose missions may look quite similar from the outside. How does your organization stand out?

Here’s a story to get you thinking.

It’s a story of how a doughnut company built an empire that separated themselves from the many doughnut options on the supermarket shelf. You guessed it, Krispy Kreme. The company’s founder, Vernon Rudolf, had a vision. It was about how a Krispy Kreme doughnut could bring joy to people. Their mission “is to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme.”

Before launching Krispy Kreme, Vernon and his partners knew they had to be different from other doughnut makers.

What they landed on, we call strategic advantages:

  • Make bringing doughnuts home or to the office an “event” that brings joy and smiles to everyone
  • Fresh, hot out of the oven
  • High quality
  • Friendly staff
  • One original glazed doughnut

This Krispy Kreme story illustrates the importance of strategic advantages. In a competitive market, it is not enough to be good. You need to be better and different than your competitors in some way. Krispy Kreme was able to gain a strategic advantage by focusing on customer service. This gave them a unique selling proposition that their competitors could not match.

Here are some other examples of strategic advantages:

  • A unique product or service
  • A strong brand reputation
  • A loyal customer or client base
  • A strategic location
  • Access to key resources
  • A skilled and experienced workforce
  • A strong financial position
  • Ties to religions or faith-based organizations

These are just a few examples of the many ways that an organization can create a strategic advantage. By identifying and leveraging your organization’s strategic advantages, you can differentiate your organization in the eyes of funders and those you serve.

Like for-profit organizations, nonprofits can easily lose their strategic advantage by shifting programs or services, struggling with quality, or poor leadership, often caused by “mission creep”.

The exercise of developing your organization’s list of strategic advantages would be great for board meetings, staff meetings and leadership retreats. The views of various volunteers and staff could be enlightening, helping you to stand out in a crowd.


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Posted by Richard Clegg
Richard Clegg

Written by Richard Clegg

Richard Clegg serves as a strategic consultant and thinking partner for a wide range of nonprofit organizations. His 40+ years of experience working in various program, leadership, and executive positions gives him unique insight into the challenges and complexities of managing mission-based organizations. Richard holds an Advanced Consultant certification with BoardSource. Before coming to DBD Group, Richard consulted with YMCAs and other nonprofit community-based organizations with operating revenues from $1M to $80M in the areas of strategy development, strategic planning, board development and governance, executive transition, and organizational capacity building.

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