How to Grow Impact Beyond Your Own Backyard
Many nonprofits are founded in order to solve a problem in their local community. But when a model proves successful, it makes sense to expand and help people outside your own backyard. This growth, however, carries new challenges to establish your programs and cultivate support.
Fortunately, modern technology, smart nonprofit partnerships, and careful planning can help organizations make an impact in other cities, states, and countries.
Technology and Communication
The internet and all its power to connect people has been a huge asset for the nonprofit sector. Some organizations are already using advances in communications and technology to provide services to people thousands of miles away. In pursuit of their mission to end suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, The Trevor Project offers a 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline. Young people all over the United States can speak to a trained volunteer for free.
The importance of this resource cannot be overstated for LGBTQ youth without access to a welcoming community and mental health support. They also have specific hours in which kids can reach volunteer counselors through text and online chat. Young people looking to connect with others even have access to TrevorSpace, a secure social networking site for LGBTQ people ages 13 to 24.
The Trevor Project also offers LGBTQ youth a searchable list of LGBTQ and mental health organizations. A teen can plug in their city and state and find the nearest resources for them. Working together and partnering with other nonprofits is also a good way to spread your work into new territory. Even if your organization doesn’t have a physical presence in another city or state, you can work with local organizations to make a difference.
Not only have advances in technology allowed nonprofits to reach People in need, it also allows them to connect and benefit from new supporters and donors.
It used to be that people could only find out about and support their local community’s nonprofits or large, well-known organizations. Someone in Topeka, Kansas, would probably never find out about a young nonprofit in Seattle that was making a difference. Now, however, everyone with internet access is a potential supporter of your organization. With email, social media, and online donations and fundraising, people on the other side of the world can not only learn about your nonprofit, but provide meaningful support too.
One way an organization or cause can gain widespread awareness is through social media. With the click of a button, a local supporter can share your work with friends in Toronto, Chicago, and London. Being able to share content and donate to organizations all over the world has broken down the barriers that once kept revolutionary nonprofits limited to their town or city.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful tool for tapping into far-flung support. Global Genes, for example, unites the small communities affected by rare diseases to advocate and support research and treatment. This spring they held their Denim Dash 5K Run and raised over $60,000.
One reason they were so successful was that they didn’t limit their pool of participants by holding the event in one place. The Denim Dash was a virtual 5K, so anyone in the world could fundraise and run their own 3.1-mile route. This meant that a fundraising team in Belgium could help as much as supporters living near the Global Genes headquarters in California.
One issue that can make expanding your nonprofit’s work to new places difficult is the lack of infrastructure and community connections. A partner organization, though, will have existing contacts and knowledge of the population. Your model might be effective, but to expand it to a new community, it helps to partner with organizations already working there.
For example, Every Mother Counts is devoted to breaking down the barriers to maternal healthcare. Although they are based in New York City, they partner with several external organizations to support maternal care outside the United States. Partners in Health is one such nonprofit. Because they operate clinics and hospitals in Haiti, they are well-positioned to help Every Mother Counts provide prenatal care to the country’s underserved women.
When looking to partner with organizations established in other areas, search for nonprofits with a similar mission and vision. Decide what kind of help you can offer each other, whether it’s a grant, a new program, or training for a new skill. The goal is to bring your expertise and success to an organization impacting the community already.
Planning for Expansion
There may come a day when you decide that you want to expand your organization into another city by opening a new office or programs center. In this case, you will have a lot of details to figure out.
Some issues to consider early on:
- Where will you expand to? Does your organization already have a presence or nonprofit partnership there?
- Who will staff this new location? Will it be launched by existing staff members or will you find someone from that locality?
- How will you fund the expansion? Will the new location become self-sustaining? When?
One way to determine what resources and support a new location will need is to begin with the minimum programming you want to operate in the beginning. Startups are often advised to create a minimum viable product, some form of their product that they can start selling and improving early on. For nonprofits looking to expand to a new city, it makes sense to think about the minimum viable programming you will offer in your new location.
If, for example, your after school center wants to open a new location in the next town over, you may not start with all the same programs and services. Over the last 10 years, the existing center might have grown to include early-morning childcare and art classes. To get started in your new location, you could start by only offering after-school supervision. As your constituency and staff grows, the new center can add more services.
By starting with one or two programs, a nonprofit can establish itself and succeed in the community. With this momentum and trust, they can build an even more impactful presence. If your nonprofit is ready for expansion, think carefully about what you can realistically begin operating and grow from there.
Nonprofit organizations exist to solve problems and improve lives. It is only natural then, that when they succeed they try to spread their solutions and help more people. With online communications, partnerships with other organizations, and carefully planned expansion, nonprofits can think bigger than ever before.