What Your Nonprofit Can Learn from Apple

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

Apple has been one of the most valuable — and revered—companies in the world for years. But leadership changes (Tim Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as CEO) and mistakes (the blunder with its mapping software) have had some wondering whether Apple’s future will be as bright as its past.

In an April 2013 article in Fast Company, Austin Carr reveals several truths about the iconic Apple brand that may shed light on its future potential.

Apple has never been a non-stop new product machine. After all, six years elapsed between the launch of the iPhone and the iPad. But Apple has created the belief in the marketplace that the next revolutionary product is right around the corner.

Incremental innovation has been critical to Apple’s success. What version of the iPhone is in your hand? 4? 4S? 5? These were among the five best-selling smartphones in the U.S. last quarter. Apple has turned product refinements into an art form.

The cult of personality can help or hurt an organization. Steve Jobs was so closely connected to Apple that many expressed concern about how the company would fare under Tim Cook’s leadership.

So how can nonprofits learn from Apple?

  • Visionary thinking is important, but so is incremental improvement. Big ideas inspire our donors and motivate our staff. Smaller, day-to-day enhancements to our products, personnel, fundraising or systems help us build lasting institutions.
  • Transition is a part of life—prepare for it. The death or departure of a CEO is challenging, especially when the CEO is so closely identified with the organization. That’s why the board of a nonprofit should be proactive with succession planning.
  • A little magic never hurts. Steve Jobs succeeded spectacularly in building anticipation for each of his “insanely great” (his words) new products. Like any for-profit company, nonprofits also need to acquire some sales and marketing acumen so that their audiences keep wondering: what’s next?

How can we help your nonprofit become “insanely great”? Contact us today.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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