For nonprofits, the process of building a strong organizational foundation that serves the greater good can quickly prove to be an immensely tough undertaking. More often than not, the biggest problems stem from poor leadership.
These problems can relate to internal operations, culture, or growth plans. In a recent survey of more than 1,000 individuals at various nonprofits, over half reported that their organization does not have a firm, strategic plan for the future.
This can be due to a number of deep-rooted problems. Fortunately, you can overcome some of the most troublesome roadblocks with a few simple adjustments. Below, we dig into some of the toughest tasks nonprofit leaders face, and how to tackle them appropriately.
1. Keep Organizational and Individual Visions Aligned
Perhaps the most important ingredient to a successful nonprofit is the vision. Do you:
- Want to help veterans?
- Provide food to the homeless?
- Help sick children get the funding they need for treatment?
While the overarching vision can be fairly straightforward, it tends to be the finer details of these objectives that cause the most problems. For example, if your mission is to raise money for children, in what ways will you get the word out about your cause? How will your marketing strategy be designed? What types of content will you produce?
In order to reach the larger goals, you need to establish stepping stones to get there. For instance, you might need the marketing team to produce 10 amount of original content pieces every month to build trust with audiences and improve your SEO rankings. Maybe your organization needs to gain 50 of new followers every week. Further, you could have quarterly fundraising goals that you work to hit.
For an operation to function properly, all stakeholders need to understand the overarching vision and everything involved in getting there. Furthermore, everyone must be on the same page with regard to things like organizational systems, values, approaching donors, and community outreach.
It All Starts With Hiring Right
This is far and away one of the most challenging aspects of running a nonprofit. Keeping visions aligned all starts with the hiring process. Poor hiring choices can not only compromise the organization, they can also eat into revenue. Replacing a salaried employee can typically cost 20 percent of that person’s annual pay, according to the Center for American Progress.
Let’s say an employee is making $40,000 per year. When you factor in all the costs of recruiting, training, lost productivity, and time it takes for the new hire to be completely functional in the role, it can end up costing that organization around $8,000. While it’s hard to predict how much turnover actually costs, nonprofits should keep this top of mind, and for this reason leaders must be very selective in bringing people onboard—even if they are friends and family.
Investing in a reliable hiring system is one of the best choices nonprofit leaders can make. AI-driven tools, like Harver, are designed to eliminate arbitrary guesswork in making sure the people you choose to hire are a good fit. Upon matching skills and experience with your mission, the algorithm will run targeted assessments to gauge professional values, situation judgement, cultural fit, and more.
The software also allows you create a preview of what a normal day would look like for a candidate. This way, both parties can be sure they’re a right fit for each other.
When bringing new personalities onboard, there will always be a certain degree of risk in terms of aligning visions. The technology behind software like Harver mines the workplace behavioral data already accessible in the public realm, and provides a deeper understanding of each candidate, their intentions, values, visions, and how they will mesh with an organization. This allows the employer to make a more informed, timely hiring decision.
Successful nonprofits start from the inside. If visions within an organization are not aligned, working together toward “the big picture” is nearly impossible.
2. Maintain a Growth-Oriented Culture
In any organization, maintaining a growth-oriented culture is a huge indicator of ongoing success. It is also a big challenge to maintain this culture. A growth-oriented culture not only helps your organization achieve its mission, but it also affects how stakeholders develop with the organization.
Given that many nonprofits tend to pay lower salaries to save costs, employees are generally driven by a passion to do good. When this is the case, there must be a culture in place where ideas can be shared openly in an inclusive, welcoming environment.
Culture starts with leadership qualities and flows throughout an organization. Although there certainly needs to be unity in a common vision, leaders must understand that a growth-oriented culture is built on a foundation of trust and emotional awareness. Without these two traits, personal and organizational growth becomes difficult.
To promote trust and emotional awareness, and in turn foster a growth-oriented culture, make it a point to avoid things like unnecessary pressure, unrealistic timeframes, and close-mindedness. Always honor different peoples’ personality styles the best you can. Be constructive and offer support when needed.
A nonprofit’s ability to grow and continue to make positive impacts is hugely dependent on the people involved. If they are not working in an environment that promotes growth, the organization won’t be able to develop as needed. As many nonprofit staff are driven by passion for the cause, if the culture is toxic in a way that stifles both personal and organizational growth, people will have no problem finding the door.
3. Maximize Dollars
As many nonprofit leaders will attest, stretching a budget is one of the most difficult and constant challenges involved with the job. While nonprofit leaders should not be afraid to make smart and necessary investments, there are ways that organizations can find help.
For example, recruiting student help is a fantastic way to save on operational costs. You can seek out journalism students to perform tasks like writing press releases, covering events, and drafting your newsletters. If you need to do some work on your website, see if there are graphic design students looking to build their portfolios.
Each dollar saved on overhead is another dollar that can fund your programs, and by extension your mission itself. If you are a small operation, or looking to break into the world of nonprofits, saving money is a reality that comes with the sector. When it comes to tracking your expenses, bookkeeping solutions like Big E-Z are designed to make nonprofit leaders’ lives easy.
The system is made to work with Microsoft Excel and allows you to track 12 income and 14 expense categories, with up to 100 subcategories. From here, you can determine where the bulk of your budget is being spent, and how much is being spent. With this knowledge, you can pinpoint which jobs to potentially save on by outreaching to local talent—like students.
In organizations, passion for the greater good is the name of the game. For many nonprofit leaders, this concept alone can make these three challenges some of the most cumbersome tasks involved in running the show. However, when you work to maintain a unified vision, create and celebrate a healthy culture of growth, and maximize your dollars to meet objectives, you can move your organization in the right direction and advance your mission.
Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a full service digital marketing agency, and PRmention, a digital PR agency. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web and The Huffington Post to name a few.