The constant quest for funds can weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of people who pursue careers in the world of nonprofit. There are many constituencies to satisfy: donors, volunteers, board members and staff. Identifying ways to improve your nonprofit organization is a terrific way to show the world that your charity isn’t static and that everyone involved cares about everything, from operations to image.
Improve your board of directors. Community leaders love to see their names on the letterheads of charity organizations, but not all of them join the cause because they want to change the world. Look carefully at candidates. Find people with influence, money and an energetic outlook – people who know it’s about the cause, not the letterhead — each time you fill a vacancy.
Improve your nonprofit's fund raising strategies. Avoid using the ‘same old, same old’ charity art auction and awards banquet to generate funds. Borrow ideas from others and adapt them to your cause. Stage a kid’s fashion show. Sponsor a night at the movies. Sell licensed goods so everyone affiliated with your cause can show off logo-embellished coffee mugs, scarves and more.
Improve your agency's ratio of dollars spent on services over dollars used to keep the nonprofit up and running. You may not be able to eliminate office, travel or administrative expenses, but you can find ways to rustle up in-kind donations to cut expenditures. Everything from a year’s supply of toilet tissue to the donation of legal, printing and accounting services means more cash spent on services at year’s end.
Improve your nonprofit’s carbon footprint. Go paperless. Replace costly print jobs like annual reports, fundraiser invitations, brochures and catalogs with electronic versions that are sent via E-mail or published on your nonprofit’s website. Show your board that you’re as concerned about the environment as you are about your bottom line and you’ll garner their support.
Improve your nonprofit’s image. Raise your organization’s profile from little-known charity to a cause that’s as well known for good work as it is for the amount of ink generated by the media. Establish relationships with reporters and producers. Write press releases about lives you’ve changed – real people who might not have survived were it not for your nonprofit’s intervention.
Improve your nonprofit’s staff relationships. Offset low salaries with gestures that make staff feel valued – a birthday off, an afternoon for Christmas shopping or coffee on Friday. Safiyah Jackson, a Chicago Community Trust employee, traded her high-paying Ford Motors job for the chance to develop educational programs. “I’ll never leave the nonprofit world,” she said about CCT. That’s exactly how you want your staff to feel.
Get help improving your nonprofit. When the Council of Community Services of New York State wanted to train its board of directors in 2007 they didn't have the funds. The Department of Health took note of the nonprofit’s desire to improve the skills of board members and awarded the organization $167,650 per year for up to five years. Now that’s an impressive way to improve things.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.