Your board of directors is one of the most important assets your nonprofit has. Assuming they understand their role and are there for the right reasons, your board members provide invaluable insight, direction and oversight. They volunteer their time and…
So, you want new donors? You want to make sure that you keep getting funds from the donors you currently have? What are you doing to make sure that both of these things are happening? If you lack a strategy and purposeful intent to cultivate and maintain a donor base, you will certainly have money troubles. “Form it and they will give” doesn’t work well for many nonprofits. Here are three things to consider to cultivate and maintain an active donor base:
1) A Compelling Purpose.
You need a compelling purpose. Are you doing anything that a donor might want to support financially? Are you providing your community with services that are indeed needed? If a donor can relate to, or is interested in, the services your nonprofit provides, the donor is more likely to be happy giving to that cause. If there are many other nonprofits in your community that are providing the same services, you will have to try harder to differentiate your organization from the other nonprofits.
Maybe your purpose IS compelling…to you. You understand things about the need for your program that the public doesn’t easily grasp. For example, the need being met by a homeless shelter is pretty obvious. If, on the other hand, your organization’s purpose is to research treatments for dry-eye syndrome, you are going to be challenged trying to garner wide monetary support for your efforts. Those with the problem will jump on board, but your work is cut out for you with everyone else. You need to understand #3 below: communication. But don’t skip #2. It’s big.
It often seems that when otherwise business-savvy individuals become involved in a nonprofit organization, they set aside all they ever learned in business and proceed to operate their nonprofit as if business rules do not matter. As most soon find out, they matter a lot. In this post, let’s take a look (in no particular order) at 10 business basics that nonprofits ignore at their own peril.
Money. This may come as a shock to some, but being “nonprofit” does not, cannot, mean NO PROFIT. With the notable exception of GM, AIG and a few others, a business must make a profit to survive. Your organization was probably not on Tim Geithner’s list for TARP funding, so red ink should be regarded as impending doom. With the uncertainty of this economy, you simply must be solvent. You and your board may have to make some tough decisions. Some programs may have to be scaled back or eliminated. Fundraising must become even more focused and intentional. I won’t repeat a lot of what we’ve discussed recently concerning funding…suffice it to say you must keep a lid on overhead…now more than ever.
This is installment #2 in our ongoing series on leadership. Our first installment was more of an introduction. In this post, we are going to explore the concept of governance vs. management.
Governance and management: For many, these are interchangeable terms. They shouldn’t be. And in far too many nonprofits, the leadership fails to understand the difference. Properly separating the concepts of governance and management can be critical to the success of your endeavor.
Governance is leadership of the big picture. Primarily the responsibility of the board of directors, governance describes the notion of governing.Several ideas are simultaneously embodied in the concept of governance, including: mission establishment, strategic development, planning, goal setting, responsibility, accountability, oversight…the list goes on. Most successful organizations rely on a group of individuals with a diversity of talents who collectively chart the course for the organization and actively pursue the accomplishment of its mission.
The word “leader” conjures up a variety of images: your old Little League coach, a military general, your boss…even the president of the United States. Regardless of who (or what) comes to mind, there is the common thread of someone who leads. But what does leadership really mean? Certainly it means more than just being in charge. And in the setting of a nonprofit organization, is the meaning different?
I would submit that while the meaning is not so different, the goal of leadership often is. For example, in a for-profit setting, the goal is the financial success of the company. Sure, there are other intermediate goals and purposes. But when you get down to brass tacks, it’s about the money. The leaders expend their energy leading employees and influencing prospective customers in an effort to make a profit. In politics, the goal may be the establishment of a political agenda. Leaders attempt to influence voters to support their particular brand of government. Just look at most election cycles. Not that pandering is the same as actual leadership, but I digress…
Every nonprofit in existence needs money. Your ability to pay the bills depends upon it, not to speak of your ability to accomplish your mission. But do you really understand what it takes to be attractive to donors? Is your organization truly fundable? Or, have you inadvertently created an atmosphere that repels givers?
In this week’s article, we are going to explore key elements of fundability by looking at three areas of concern: mission, structure and behavior.
Just yesterday, I was interviewing a new student intern candidate in my office. During the course of our wide ranging discussion, the conversation turned to some of the interesting misconceptions we encounter with clients. I made the comment that we often feel like the crew of the Discovery Channel show, Mythbusters. There is a never-ending supply of well-entrenched myths and misconceptions in the nonprofit world…and dispelling them is part of our job! In this article, let’s take a look at a few of the more common ones.
MYTH: Build it and the grants will come.
FACT: Uh, good luck with that.
So...you want to start a nonprofit. Fantastic! That puts you in pretty good company. In any given year, as many as 75,000 applications for 501(c)(3) tax exemption are filed with the IRS. Less than half survive the process, but there…
Developing a proactive, comprehensive fundraising plan to make sure your organization is fully funded is just one part of a total plan for your organization. There is another plan you need to create – one that is just as important and could make your fundraising goals easier to reach.
The plan I am referring to is a marketing plan. It is your game plan to communicating with your donors, potential donors, media, public officials and anyone else that matters to your organization.
To effectively market your organization, you must first know a few things about yourself:
Determine what business you are in. Can you boil your mission statement down to something really short and sweet? For example, Habitat for Humanity is in the business of building decent, affordable homes for families in need.
We all have our moments of discouragement. There are times when we are getting beaten up so badly that we would rather throw in the towel than continue to get pummeled. This situation can occur in just about any area of our lives…personal and professional. But what do you do when it happens in your nonprofit? How do you know when to press on or when to give it up?
As it happens, I had this very conversation a few days ago with an acquaintance of mine who runs a small nonprofit ministry. He and his wife started the organization about 15 years ago and what little momentum they had back in the early days has long fizzled out. They find themselves practically alone in keeping it going. Anymore, they are struggling to figure out why they even keep on trying. Bill is very discouraged and, for the first time, is seriously thinking about hanging it up. Maybe you are there, too. How do you know what to do? Predictably, the answer is not so simple.