Are you a giver, taker, or matcher?

Have you ever exchanged business cards with a new contact at a networking event only to never hear from them again? This often happens when both people interact solely with the mindset of “how can this person help me?”

Adam Grant, a renowned organizational psychology researcher and the youngest tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that the most successful people are those who help others, even if the rewards for helping aren’t immediately clear. Grant’s book Give or Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success landed among the New York Times best-seller list in 2013. His research offers a roadmap for nonprofit professionals to create relationships along a broad and deep spectrum.

Grant separates the worldview of people who help others in a professional setting into three distinct groups – givers, takers, and matchers.

  • Givers – give more than they get, with no expectation of return. Givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them. Actions include giving help, sharing credit, and making introductions. Outside the workplace this behavior is common. But inside the workplace, givers are rare.
  • Takers – help others strategically, when the benefits to them outweigh the personal costs.
  • Matchers – willing to help others but expect something in return. Fairness and reciprocity govern matchers’ values. Most people fall in this group.

Grant discovered that people who occupy the bottom of the success ladder are givers, partly because they’re “too trusting and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.” ¹

Who occupies the top of the success ladder? Givers again.

Grant found that takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle of the success ladder. It’s important to understand Grant’s research found that takers, matchers, and givers all can – and do – achieve success. But the distinction occurs in what happens when givers succeed. Their success ripples to other people and often compounds into greater success. Everyone benefits. When takers win, someone else loses.

How can givers inhabit both the top and bottom of the success ladder?

Essentially being a giver can be inefficient in the short-term but very productive over time. In the immediate, givers can be so focused on helping others that they can spread themselves too thin or neglect their own interests. For example Grant found that givers who worked in sales brought in less revenue than other sales people early on. ² These salespeople were more focused on their customers’ needs rather than trying to sell them on features and upgrades they didn’t need. But a year later the same salespeople earned the highest revenue. Customers returned to these salespeople consistently because of the excellent service they received before. And they shared their positive experiences with new people, who also became acquainted with the “giver” salespeople. Nonprofit leaders seeking to build more relationships on a deep and broad level, adopting a giver mindset can provide the best framework.

How matchers and takers give differently than givers

Takers and matchers also give within their networks, but in very different ways. Most people, including nonprofit leaders, are matchers. Grant’s research shows that matchers and takers help those who they think can help them in the near future. The disadvantage is that it’s difficult to determine who will be able to help most in the future. In Give & Take, Grant shares anecdotes from his research about givers who helped people who, at the time, did not have resources of value to the giver. However, over time they had a lot more to offer and returned favors to the giver, often in much more substantial ways.

It’s important to understand that “givers” typically give much more than they receive. This is because giving isn’t a strategy to get something tangible back, but more akin to a philosophy that embraces helping others to succeed. However, this approach ultimately does leave givers successful in the long-run, and with a steady support system of connections who are ready and willing to help if needed.

Grant’s research offers nonprofit professionals a roadmap to create and strengthen relationships both internally and externally. Nonprofit professionals can adopt Grant’s approach to connect with other organizational leaders across sector, develop better relationships with funders, or deepen relationships internally with staff and Board.

¹ Grant, Adam. Give & Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
² Grant, Adam. The Atlantic “How to Succeed Professionally by Helping Others”


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Nonprofit Leadership Looks Like This

Our clients come to us carrying different goals to move their organization forward. 

Some need to generate funding in new ways after their once-steady sources become obsolete. Others want to create a stronger, more engaged board. Some face uncertainty about the best approach to expand their organization.

A one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t exist. The answer often depends on the unique qualities of a particular organization like their resources and capacity to implement different solutions.

But leadership is a significant factor for nonprofit success that’s often overlooked. Strong leadership is a resource that’s necessary for long-term success, just like sufficient funding.

Part of our role at Fairmount is to remove barriers preventing clients from reaching their goals and offering solutions to challenges based on best-practices and experience. We put tools in place to help nonprofit decision makers become the best leaders possible. Since we’ve worked with more than 325 nonprofits throughout the past 22 years, we have extensive experience about what strong leadership looks like.

Identifying Strong Nonprofit Leadership

Below are four must-have qualities we believe strong nonprofit leaders possess:

  • Aware – good leaders “get it.” They thoroughly understand the dynamics inside and surrounding their organization. They possess the ability to understand their work in a broader context that goes beyond just knowing about the needs of their staff and the people they serve.
  • Willing – good leaders understand their responsibility to make difficult decisions and possess the grit to follow through to make hard choices. This distinction is important. Leaders must first understand – and embrace – that their role requires them to make tough decisions before they’re able to act.
  • Persistent – good leaders introduce smart ideas and figure out ways to garner support from others, even when facing resistance. Being able to rally others to their cause is critical for getting initiatives approved.
  • Inclusive – good leaders invite others to share in the organization’s successes while taking responsibility for setbacks. This behavior inspires an organization’s staff, volunteers, donors, and collaborators to feel their contribution to matters.


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Fairmount’s Favorite Tweets 3/3 – 3/7 Edition

The Twitterverse is alive with stimulating conversation. Sometimes we’ll share some of our favorite tweets. Fairmount’s Favorite Tweets is a quick way to stay informed on interesting and innovative thoughts that can help your organization think smarter and create greater impact. 

If you’d like to be considered for Fairmount Favorite Tweets, share your content with us at @FairmountV!

The New York Times examines the decision some districts face when they must choose between offering full-day kindergarten or full-day pre-K and how kids are impacted.


As Millennials come of age, understanding who they are, what they care about, and and their unique perspective is crucial to build a sustainable pipeline of donors. Pew Research provides a great guide for you to get to know Millennials.

Looking for inspiration? The Atlantic Cities features how a six-year-old child decided to create positive change.

Meet one of Philadelphia’s young leaders who helps change our community solves difficult issues.

Fairmount’s Favorite Tweets: 2/10 – 2/14 Edition

The Twitterverse is alive with stimulating conversation. Weekly we’ll share some of our favorite tweets. We view it as a quick way to stay informed on the facts, news, and quotes that introduced something we think is neat, interesting, or even funny.

If you’d like to be considered for Fairmount Favorite Tweets, share your content with us at @FairmountV!

1Favorite Tweets Feb 10 - Feb 142Favorite Tweets Feb 10 - Feb 14Favorite Tweets Feb 10 - Feb 14

What LinkedIn’s New Volunteer Marketplace Means For You

You may not be aware yet, but earlier this week LinkedIn opened its Volunteer Marketplace – designed specifically for nonprofits looking for skilled volunteers.

For instance you might serve on a small, relatively unknown nonprofit with aspirations to expand your visibility. Using Volunteer Marketplace, you can post an opening for a Volunteer Director of Marketing, along with a description of the skills and experiences you seek. Chicago Family Directions, a nonprofit who provides long-term literacy tutoring to Chicago Public School K-12 students did just that using the marketplace and had 12 applicants one day after posting its position.

Looking for more specific talent like a volunteer board member with grant writing experience and a background in education? You can target those skills too.

So what’s the catch you ask? Well, currently, posting in the Volunteer Marketplace will cost you.

Rates vary depending on where the position is posted but a single, 30-day posting costs about $20. If you want to post multiple volunteer positions, you’ll pay even more.

A few takeaways to consider if using Volunteer Marketplace can benefit your organization:

  • Especially if you’re a lesser known nonprofit, posting your volunteer needs through the marketplace can serve as a double-win for your organization. Not only are you reaching skilled volunteers but just as important, you’re raising awareness of your nonprofit and its mission among LinkedIn’s massive audience of 259 million members.
  • Similar but smaller volunteer matching services like CatchAFire, VolunteerMatch, BoardSource and the Taproot Foundation each are partnering with LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace, which means the service is now your best bet to find qualified candidates.
  • Don’t view the Volunteer Marketplace as a must. It’s only another tool in your toolkit. When it comes to developing a long-term sustainable pipeline of volunteers, nothing compares to well-planned strategy.

If you liked this post: Sign-up to ReSources, Fairmount’s monthly collection of smart, timely ideas for people changing the world through a better nonprofit sector. Say hello on Twitter @FairmountV.

My secret to writing: it’s about you, not me.

Did anyone else get the opportunity to watch Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night? Regardless of political affiliation, professional commentators and casual observers alike seem to agree that the man is a masterful orator, and his most recent speech was certainly no exception. The excitement in the convention hall was palpable even in my living room. Though the speech was almost an hour long, I was glued to my seat.  Read more