In my work, I obviously talk to a lot of nonprofit organizations. Specializing in growth, my questions always trend towards two central points: where do you want to go and how are you going to get there? It’s a question that, as leaders of any organization, we all have to ask ourselves but particularly so if we’re leading a nonprofit organization. As nonprofits, we’re responsible, not only for our own organizations and the people under our employ, but also for the people who rely on the services and programs we offer. If our organizations don’t grow and develop into sustainable organizations, then we can no longer serve the communities we started to serve.
So how do we make sure that we create sustainable organizations? Well, as someone with 15 years of marketing experience, it’s easy for me to say “set your goals, make a plan and implement it”. Nonprofits, however, typically aren’t created by folks with years of business experience and, even those that are face challenges that, while very similar to those of their for-profit counterparts, can be particularly difficult.
Lack of Business Experience
At the end of the day a nonprofit is a business and has to be run as such. Every day decisions need to be made that not only impact the life of the organization but also the lives of everyone counting on your organization. As much as we all hate to admit it in the nonprofit world, the key to sustainability is money. Reflecting on the financial impact of these decisions is something that most nonprofit leaders don’t always remember to do. (By the way, this isn’t exclusive to nonprofits – for-profit start up and early stage companies regularly make the same mistakes)
Sure there are great stories out there of groups that made a huge difference with four people making all of the right decisions at the right time but those organizations (even the ones we hear about on YouTube) are almost never sustainable. Nonprofits need the same kind of leadership and guidance that for-profit companies do to survive.
Gathering the right team is crucial to the success of any organization but nonprofits have a big challenge here in that we typically can’t pay our team members as much to do a job as much as they would get to do that same job in the for-profit world. There are people out there that are willing to work for what you’re able to pay if they feel like they’re doing something worthwhile – remember that. Whatever you do, don’t just hire someone because they’re willing to do the job for the pay you can offer. Make sure that they can do the job and are willing to do it for the money you’re able to pay them.
Obviously there are a lot of challenges that surround growth as a nonprofit organization, these are just a few (we won’t get into the Board of Directors conversation yet). If you’d like to learn more about how Optimal Giving can help your organization, click here to fill out our contact form and learn more.