The Three C’s of Three Notch’d

Three Notch’d Nonprofit Solutions is grounded in 20 years of experience in the nonprofit world. I have had my hands in various pots at diverse organizations—ones where staff supplied their own computers and others with $25 million operating budgets. Whether I have been on the art museum floor with preschoolers or meeting with a program officer of a foundation, there are three essential pillars that have always driven my work.





1. a strong desire to know or learn something.

2. a strange or unusual object or fact.

The daughter of two professors, I have always been a curious person. When taking on a new project, it’s the initial information-gathering phase that usually gets me the most excited. I have a thirst for learning all there is to know about a new organization and for identifying the guiding principles that drive its work. I gather programs, annual reports, surveys and marketing collateral like a pack rat. I listen for what staff members geek out about and soak it up like a sponge.





1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

2. a person in a novel, play, or movie.

Once I have an understanding of an organization’s mission and culture, I look for the stories. I determine who the audience will be—Donors? Preschoolers? Soccer moms?—and start crafting a story that will speak to them. Every good story is dependent on a mix of characters that bring that story to life. Whether a kindergartener’s thank you letter from a recent program pulls at a donor’s heart strings or a wily fox with gold paint on his nose gets kids excited about a Renaissance painting, the goal is the same: make a lasting impression.





1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

While I bring my own innovative approaches to tasks large and small, my work thrives in collaborative environments where I am able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of colleagues. I approach my work with organizations with a certain level of call and response. After I’ve sketched out a creative concept based on that joyful information-gathering phase, I gather feedback in a concerted effort to ensure it not only meets the mark but uncovers what a staff member might have written if she had the time or brain space to take it on herself. My iterative approach feeds on an exchange of ideas and feedback because at the end of the day, my goal is to leave behind a lasting product is something that genuinely reflects an organization, its mission and culture.

These three C’s continue to sustain my work in program design, evaluation and fundraising. As a consultant, my hope is that my fresh perspective can take a load off of nonprofit staff who are likely stretched a little too thin. If you’re in need of project-based or just general support, I’d love to talk about how I can help. Find out more about my services here, then get in touch with me.

Published by Ellen Spangler

Hi, I’m Ellen Spangler. With nearly twenty years in nonprofits, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. My first love will always be museums, but I have also cherished my work in education and membership organizations. I’ve worked as a Development Director, Communications Director, Educator, Trainer and Project Manager, and now own and operate a consulting business, Three Notch’d Nonprofit Solutions.

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