​I’ve had the pleasure of working with countless non-profit organizations.  Some run like well oiled machines but sadly most struggle.  This is heart breaking because if you have ever talked with a founder of a non-profit, they are amazing human beings who have dedicated their lives to serving others.  No one deserves success more than they do.

Most non-profits fit into one of these three categories:

Category One:  The vast majority of non-profits struggle to really get off the ground and raise enough money to truly begin to affect change.

Category Two: They managed to get over the start-up hump and now have a full-blown operation. Woo hoo! It’s a small operation but it is running and they have a community presence.  What they also have is a very small over-worked, over-stressed and under-paid staff. They can’t focus on growing any more because they’ve reached capacity in what can physically be accomplished in 24 hours.

Category Three:  These are the well-known organizations that raise millions of dollars.  These organizations have paid teams to ensure that the programs run well.  Here’s what truly sets them apart, they also have teams solely focused on growing their footprint, their impact and their donations.

Take the role of leadership and management seriously.  Develop volunteers who can in turn develop the organization.

Focus on creating an ongoing relationship with your donors.  Give them the opportunity to support your efforts on a monthly basis.  Let this be your fundraising focus, not exhaustive events.

If you’re reading this and your non-profit is in category one or two, it’s time to build a strategy to move you through these stages so that you have a clear path to category three.  Together, we can begin to map out a new course of action that will allow you to increase your impact, eliminate some overwhelm and create opportunities for you to serve more people.

Leadership Phase 3: Evaluation

1. They Don’t Run Their Organization Like a Business

Every entity that takes in money and serves a customer is a business and should run as such.  Sure, a non-profit receives donations instead of sales and they serve people and/or communities rather than selling products BUT the concept of money in and money out is the exact same as a for profit business.

Here are two of the basics:

A business plan: Every organization needs to be clearly defined, have goals for revenue in, understand the operating expenses and understand how to best utilize internal resources and external resources to accomplish their goals.

Operating costs: Rather than operating solely on what limited amount of donations you’re able to bring in, set goals for operations and expansion of programs.  Start small.  Narrow your focus to one program.  When that program is running well, set goals for raising funds to support an additional program.


2. They Don’t Manage Their Volunteers Like Employees

Most non-profits tip toe around their volunteers and try not to do anything that will upset them because they’ve resigned themselves to the notion that some help is better than no help. That simply isn’t true.  If an organization is full of the wrong kind of volunteers, it can actually hurt the organization and slow down their progress.

Does this scenario sound familiar:
Someone raises their hand to volunteer.  The organization then says, what are you skills and how much time can you dedicate.  Then they begin to haphazardly task the volunteer.

Imagine this scenario:
Someone raises their hand to volunteer.  The organization provides them with an operating manual, a schedule of events, a clearly defined job description and goals.  Did you catch those last two parts?  A job description and goals.

Volunteers need to be led and managed just the same as you would lead and manage an employee in a Fortune 500 company.

Most volunteers would tell you that they would do more if they understood how to best be impactful.  They won’t insert themselves more if the organization is chaotic.  No one is signing up for more chaos in their lives.


3. Focus on One Time Giving Instead of Ongoing Relationships with Donors

I can’t tell you the number of non-profit organizations I’ve encountered that live from event to event.  They’re entire fundraising model centers around making enough money at a few events they host each year.  First and foremost, this exhausts the staff.  It keeps the organization in a mode of feast or famine financially and physically because all activity is exhausted on events.

Events are great.  They’re needed.  They should not be the sole focus.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to be so bold as to say that focusing one-time donations at events is the biggest thing that keeps non-profits stagnant.

Here’s what any non-profit can do today to start to change the culture and the stability of the organization: Get clear on the business of running a non-profit.