How to Celebrate Abe Lincoln’s Birthday Nonprofit Style

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s a date where we honor one of the greatest presidents and also I get to celebrate a birthday even though I was born in November.

Although many government organizations (and banks) observe Monday as a day off from work, February 12 is the day I celebrate. As part of the obligation because of my name, I have spent most of my life learning about Abraham Lincoln, and collecting Lincoln memorabilia.

Because most of my thoughts are focused in the nonprofit world, I thought it would be helpful to take a few examples from the life of the 16th President to help your nonprofit.

Be a Lifetime Learner

Lincoln is famous for having only received roughly 18 months of formal education, yet he became one of the most important figures in American history. He overcame the lack of school-based learning by learning through books, from experience and from other people he met.

As a nonprofit professional, you can’t afford to be complacent with what you already know. You should seek out new ideas, trends and methods to help push your nonprofit. Whether it is the latest social media device, a different approach to grant writing or new fundraising events, you can never stop learning to keep your nonprofit current.

Be a Storyteller

Lincoln was known as a great storyteller. Rather than lecture people when he wanted to make a point, he told a story that illustrated the point in a colorful and more meaningful way. Lincoln was the life of the evening parlor telling stories that were entertaining, humorous and also had a lesson to take away.

As a nonprofit, you should always be looking to find ways to tell your story in more impactful ways. Whether this is in your marketing, grant writing or in your everyday pitches, finding new stories to illustrate your mission and the good you do in this world.

Get a Great Support Team

After Lincoln was elected president, he turned to some of his biggest rivals to work with him in the executive branch. Former presidential candidates William Seward (Secretary of State), Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of Treasury, and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Simon Cameron (Secretary of War) and Edward Bates (Attorney General) all served in Lincoln’s cabinet. Lincoln’s reliance on people who wanted his job assured that he would receive honest opinions and a variety of thoughts.

When forming your leadership team, don’t be afraid to put in a voice that will share their honest opinions. Yes-people don’t do your organization any good. Putting together a leadership team with diverse background will help with innovation and constructive dialogue. They other important ingredient is to have a strong leader at top who can manage the egos and differing opinions constructively, and then make a decision when necessary.


Those are just three examples of how Abraham Lincoln’s lifestyle can help your nonprofit achieve more. We could go on much more (perhaps four score more), but we want to leave you plenty of time to play with Lincoln Logs, count all your pennies and other activities to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.


Lincoln Arneal

Lincoln Arneal was a Senior Editor at Nonprofit Hub who brought loads of real-world nonprofit experience to the team. He was the past executive director of a nonprofit that provided leadership development to junior high and high school students. He looked to bring the insights from his time forming, developing, and running a nonprofit to help others in their quest to do good. Lincoln also had a legal background and had written for various newspapers (covering high school sports) for the past 15 years. He could be followed on Twitter at @NPLNK.

February 12, 2015

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