Managing a nonprofit organization has many parallels with operating a for-profit business. While one may be focused on supporting critical health and human care needs and the other selling a variety of products or services, they both need to share with their stakeholders how they’re making a positive impact in their respective areas of expertise.
Over the last decade, the number of charitable organizations registering with the IRS grew by more than 60 percent to nearly two million. One of the fundamentals of a free market is that increased competition leads to better products and services. This definitely applies to changes in how nonprofits conduct day-to-day operations, and ultimately, fulfill their missions.
By providing the best return on investment for the charitable dollar, the Heart of Illinois United Way has successfully doubled its fundraising revenue over the last 10 years. The root of this continued success is our organization’s ability to not only share with donors our fiscal accountability, but to share tangible results on how each dollar invested in the United Way changes people’s lives.
The Heart of Illinois United Way is central Illinois’ leader at establishing and funding outcomes that address the critical needs of the region. Just as health and human care agencies must continually assess the needs of the people they serve, the United Way continuously develops strategies to improve the quality of life in our community. Through a partnership with Bradley University, we research the issues impacting the communities we serve, and then we establish and fund outcomes. By sharing these program outcomes with donors, our United Way and partner agencies can clearly illustrate how they are changing the knowledge, attitudes, skills or conditions of people in at-risk situations.
Nonprofits are increasingly doing more with less. Many have made major shifts in how they operate. With state and federal cuts, and late government payments, it’s not enough for nonprofit boards to review annual budgets, financial statements and audits. They must look strategically at how to keep their organization’s mission and work sustainable.
For a nonprofit to be sustainable, it cannot focus solely on the ability to generate resources to meet current and future needs, it must also focus on adopting programs to remain relevant. It is critical for nonprofits to be able to develop, grow and change their programs to be responsive to shifts in need and resources.
For-profit businesses must have resources in place when there are shifts in supply and demand. Over the next few years, nonprofit organizations will continue to cope with increased demand for services with comparatively flat funding which will lead many to seek out opportunities to evolve their organizations. Strategically, this evolution should include building their board of directors to focus on planning and sustainability instead of routine operations, investing in technology and infrastructure to provide better services, and continuing to communicate how their charitable investments are improving people’s lives and the quality of life in our community.iBi