Taking Your Non-profit to the Next Level

Having been in the non-profit sector for over a decade now, I can humbly say I’ve learned a thing or two in the space over that time period.

Here are some tips that come to mind.

1. Understand your competitive advantage. Deviations from what your organization truly excels at can at best be a distraction and at worst damage your reputation. This is particularly important to keep in mind when starting new/expanding current programs. Determine where your organization’s and employees’ strengths are and where your activity strays. Always remind your key stakeholders that your organization cannot, and should not, be everything to everyone.

2. Assess your strategies. Many organizations face the reality of changing their mission or methods, particularly related to fundraising. With the economic recovery continuing at a slow pace, determining which strategies are successful and which are not is critical. If there are opportunities to expand or duplicate processes that worked elsewhere, do so; alternatively, if something isn’t working, eliminate it.

3. Balance your balance sheet. Though many organizations fear how excess cash reserves will resonate to donors, they should be equally aware of the dangerous impacts of the alternative. Balance sheets should always have flexibility to deal with unexpected challenges and unforeseen opportunities. To achieve this, try to maintain reserves as well as explore leveraging lines of credit. Stability has become an increasingly important variable in the philanthropic decision. Individuals and organizations do not want to invest in a nonprofit that may not be viable in the coming years. Funding sources are attracted to successful, long-term, impactful causes.

4. It is all about funding. Regardless of whether your organization is primarily funded through individual philanthropy, earned income, business support, or government contracts, keep communication open with all of your stakeholders. To the best of my knowledge, many nonprofits that expected stable funding in 2013 actually saw decreases. Nonprofits are receiving shorter notice from funding sources about reductions to revenue. Communicating with these individuals and organizations frequently is the best way to gain insight into potential future funding changes.

5. You can’t shrink your way to greatness. Develop a reputation for thinking big, challenging how things are done, and seeking new strategies. This is the only way to achieve greatness in your mission and purpose. If your strategy is to work quietly, repeat the same things you’ve always done, wait for the situation to get better, or keep cutting expenses, your relevance will eventually diminish. One possible solution is to increase collaboration or explore mergers or joint ventures. Working with other organizations that complement or align with yours can ensure your mission will continue with greater strength in a combined entity.

Your feedback is as always greatly appreciated.

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Written by

Ziad Abdelnour is a political activist and is the Founder and President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.