I’ve been researching the reoccurring problems that plague nonprofit organizations. There is no doubt that nonprofit work is imperative to our communities — whether it’s running a local campaign against breast cancer or supporting a food bank. Nonprofits have different business goals than for-profit organizations, but they share common issues with budgeting, management, financing, etc. that can threaten the success of their mission. Here is a summary of major points:
1. Media and PR: NPOs have been trying to take advantage of the media and social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, etc. because Internet usage is definitely on the rise. Unfortunately, NPOs often fail to follow up with their own activities, update supporters on the results of campaigns, and make donors aware of upcoming events. They underestimate how active people are online and don’t obtain or incorporate technology needed to accomplish their missions. Their lack of social presence, which is a key part of their identity, results in a lack of information that can make their organization almost invisible to potential donors.
Solution: Make sure you stay active and regularly update your supporters using social media outlets in order to build up your volunteer/donor community.
2. Missions Statement: According to a report by Nonprofit Finance Fund in 2012, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. Almost three quarters of them respond to localized needs, but not all of them have been particularly good at being clear and purposeful about reciting the missions of their organizations. With multiple new projects every year, donors have many choices to consider as they decide where to invest philanthropic dollars. If the nonprofits fail to create their own culture, they can’t spread the message effectively and publicize their efforts to build public trust and ask for more funding.
Solution: Make sure you take the time to create a marketing plan for your organization. It will require time and expense up front but, in the long run, it will help you communicate your message and goals to gain support for your cause.
3. The Community: One key goal of nonprofits is to achieve popularity by spreading the word out about their organizations. Understandably, many NPOs are so focused on their social impact that they fail to spend enough time adding value to their partners or protecting the organization itself. In other words, the organization’s lack of interactivity and partnering with donors and potential donors makes it impossible for them to get involved beyond giving money. As they fail to serve their target community appropriately, they lose the opportunity to expand and reinvent in the future.
Solution: Find ways to extend your relationship with donors. Use your events, social media channels, and blogging to interact with those that support your cause.
4. Financing: Money is THE major pressure point for any nonprofit. NPOs rely on a diverse range of financial support from individual donors, foundations, governments, and other institutional contributors to ensure that the operational budget is covered. However, money is still in short supply because the economy is far from recovered. Revenue is down; charitable donations are smaller; government aid has shrunk and can even require nonprofits to find and secure external resources in order to qualify and land government funding, etc. Since the goal of NPOs is to serve a public mission rather than make a profit, they have to handle these financial hardships in a difficult economic environment.
Solution: Be transparent with donors. Let them know how their money is spent and how their dollars enrich real lives and community betterment. When donors see how their contributions matter, they are inspired to give more.
5. Leadership: This is where nonprofits can learn from the for-profit sector because nothing can work without strong leadership. Regardless of where funding comes from or the size and frequency of donations, leadership is needed to keep everything in budget and execute the strategies and advance the organizational goals. Nonprofits struggle with developing strong and independent leadership and often lack a system for ensuring future leaders. Billy Shore, founder and executive director of Share Our Strength, said in an interview with U.S. News & World Report that nonprofits have been facing talent retention. The sector easily attracts young and idealistic leaders, but it finds it more difficult to find and keep capable and committed board members.
Solution: Use human resources wisely. You’ll never regret using the budget to hire an effective leader with innovative ideas who will move your organization forward. It could be the difference between opening more doors of opportunity for your community or closing your doors altogether.
Tell us about your nonprofit organization. What struggles are you facing in your day-to-day operations? Submit your #NonprofitProbs to The Cause Agency via our Facebook page. We might pick your comment to address in a future blog post. If we do, we’ll use our social media channels to promote your organization for the entire week of the post.