Nonprofit organizations, along with their managers and leaders, constantly face new challenges such as growth, social problems, government cutbacks and the need to serve many constituents. In meeting these challenges, they use a variety of modern business practices to accomplish their missions, manage their staffs and finances, raise the funds needed, and market their goals and objectives to the community—in both public and private sectors.
With an aging population, increased competition for staff, donations and services, and an increased demand for services that rely on technology, today’s nonprofit organization must look at the key factors they need to put into place to move away from a no profit school of thought. A nonprofit organization is a mission- based business. Fundraising efforts are not merely in place to provide money for the organization, but rather, donors are “purchasing” services for others— and this type of “purchase” makes it even more important that nonprofit organizations provide measurable outcomes to their constituents.
The first step a nonprofit must take is to periodically review the organization’s mission statement and strategic plan. If a nonprofit is to be a mission-based business, the statement needs to be viable and attainable. It is a resource, management tool, staff motivator, volunteer recruiter and fundraiser, and as such, should be utilized at all times.
The second step is to make sure this mission is met, and to do so, you need the right people—a business-based board and an experienced staff.
The third step is to put these people to work as “social entrepreneurs” who utilize technology, marketing and finances to create a vision for the entire organization.
If a business plan which incorporates these basic steps is not strategically put into place, a nonprofit organization can end up somewhere else down the road. Remember the phrase “you can’t be everything to everyone?” “Strategic planning” is not a bad term. Without a plan, a nonprofit will only get to where it’s going by accident, and with the burden of providing for others on a daily basis, there’s no time for trial and error. It is also important to put this plan into place as a joint responsibility of the board of directors and the staff.
A good relationship between the board and staff is key to fulfilling a mission and meeting strategic goals. Since a board provides a critical link to the community, it needs to be made up of advocates and business leaders who are committed to the success of an organization. Board members provide expertise and objectivity while serving as a sounding board for ideas and plans. These people too often become an under-utilized resource.
Of course a two-way relationship must be put into place. A good board needs a good staff, and a good staff needs a good board. A strong staff will enable a board’s decisions and direction to function efficiently, and a good board will provide a staff with a high-quality mission which they can market to the public.
Nonprofit doesn’t have to mean no profit. Organizations can increase effectiveness and turn their missions into ones of power and impact by building basic business principles into their philosophies. A nonprofit manager must utilize balance, innovation, leadership and effective communication. By setting and requiring increasingly higher standards of practice, nonprofits can surround themselves with the right framework of support, enabling them to continue to effectively meet the needs of others. IBI