Three fundamentals behind building a successful nonprofit

Working in the nonprofit sector of the public relations or business world can be one of the most rewarding, satisfying career paths to follow, but it can also be one of the most difficult on multiple levels. The key to a nonprofit’s ultimate success is usually a well organized and executed business strategy. With nonprofits typically working with limited resources and a largely volunteer-based work force, its organization and planning technique will make or break the company. One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits can make, Fast Company reports, is to rely on a nonprofit’s board to create its strategy. This is because typically, the board does not have suitable knowledge on the three “pillars” that make up a successful nonprofit strategy which include a requisite broad market intelligence, the ability to collect impartial data from those the organization serves (the customers), and comprehensive understanding of the organization’s capacity. This is why, the article states, it is important to bring in an outside effort to develop the three key elements in any nonprofit strategy:

1. Market

2. Customers

3. Capacity

Market is a critical element to consider when creating a successful business strategy, as its timing plays a crucial role in its implementation. As an example, the article says that “it is quite a different game to grow an organization when the market is expanding than when it is contracting.” Additionally, markets are rarely black and white. They are filled with challenges and circumstances that “rely on specific circumstances and present unique opportunities”. For this reason, the article states it is pivotal that a nonprofit realize the importance of relying on an outside expert who can analyze the market and present findings in a way that “makes it easy for the board to understand, digest, and debate”.

Secondly, the people a nonprofit serves (customers) are vastly important to incorporate into a business strategy. The article suggests that two main questions should be considered when taking this element into account: Who are our main customers? And how are we doing at serving them? The answers to these questions may not be as simple as one might think, which is why it is important to analyze them using critical thinking. It takes a unique level of neutrality to successfully “interact with your organization’s customers, gather their candid input, and put it together in a framework that gives an accurate picture of how your organization is perceived by those it serves, for better or worse.”

The last but certainly not least important aspect to look at when implementing a business plan for your nonprofit is its capacity. Fast Company reminds us that having a broad understanding of your company’s market and customers is not enough. The organization must know whether or not it has the capacity and power to “rise to opportunities and meet challenges successfully.” Required to do this is an assessment of its ability to both act and innovate. An outside expert is important in this regard, because as the article believes, everyone who is inside the organization is does not have the independence to analyze its culture, functions, and roles required to design and deliver value successfully without bias.

It is the caliber and strength of these thee elements that will make or break a nonprofit’s strategy. Although it may be tempting to do the work internally, bringing in an expert under the direction of the CEO to do the necessary work, examine these three areas, and present the findings to the board for review will ensure more successful, worthwhile results.

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