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Change Your Nonprofit and Grow

  • Fewer donors than expected?

  • Is it time for an evaluation?

At the end of each year, particularly in challenging economic times, news reports of reduced donations and desperate nonprofits unable to serve their constituencies fill the airwaves and newspapers. As a consultant, I am always frustrated at the blame being placed on donors who just didn't come through. The reality is that an unrealistic expectation of financial support and an operational complacency are often to blame but fortunately can be fixed. Certainly the economy and other factors greatly influence the environment in which service must continue to be provided, but the first line of defense is to change what you can control which is the operation of your nonprofit organization. This is the first in a series of articles to help your nonprofit grow over the next year.

These resolutions are not the only areas you should be considering, but they are applicable to most organizations.

  • Raise more money

  • Gain more volunteers

  • Improve services

  • Raise public awareness

  • Advance your mission

The process to accomplish these resolutions is:

  • Evaluation

  • Planning

  • Implementation

  • Review

It is important to create a cycle of evaluation, planning, implementation and review for all projects and operations. This discipline will help you to be more effective, efficient and successful.

Complacency can be the downfall of any organization or individual. You will find yourself invigorated by new challenges if you are initiating changes rather than reacting to changes that come your way. Controlling as much of your environment as possible will give you a sense of power to overcome most problems and will provide greater job satisfaction.

Start with a staff meeting. Lay out the issues that you know exist and confidently ask for everyone to join with you and use their talents to help the organization better accomplish its mission. Restate the mission for all to hear. When staff and volunteers take responsibility for growth, they too will grow and become more valuable to the organization.

Where does the board fit in this equation? Certainly they must be in agreement to enact change but their role depends on your organization. I believe that as nonprofit organizations have become more sophisticated and are staffed with knowledgeable professionals, a board primarily exists to raise resources for an organization, not to participate in daily operations. Again, this may not be true for the board of every organization, but opinions and advice are given easily, while giving money requires conviction and commitment to the mission of the organization. Ultimately, a combination of interest, expertise and fundraising ability is a good measure of a board member.

When everyone understands the process that lies ahead, it's time to get started with an evaluation of the organization.

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