4 Things Every Nonprofit Needs
If the leaders of a nonprofit organization are really serious about creating change, there are some things they must have in place. I spend my days talking with a variety of nonprofit organizations, and all of those conversations revolve around the same basic problems:
- An inability to raise enough money
- A lack of strategic direction
- An inability to "move the needle" on a social problem
- A disconnected, disengaged, ineffective board of directors
- Lack of sufficient organization infrastructure
In my mind, the solution is so simple. If every nonprofit had four key things in place, those problems would go away. Here's what I think every nonprofit needs:
1. A theory of change
Nonprofit organizations exist to meet some sort of social need. Unlike for-profit organizations, nonprofits can't simply use their financial bottom line as a barometer of success. Rather, a nonprofit must articulate what it exists to do.
A theory of change, or logic model, allows a nonprofit to state (to internal board and staff, and to external funders, volunteers, supporters) how it takes community resources and turn them into social change. Without a theory of change, a nonprofit cannot persuade anyone to be part of it work, let alone measure whether that work is actually resulting in anything.
2. A strategic plan
And I don't mean a "pretend" strategic plan where board and staff go through the motions to create something they could show to funders and put up on their walls. I mean a real strategic plan that is built on the logic model and guides the day-to-day work of the organization, is compelling and inspiring, and results in real solutions to social problems.
A good strategic plan allows a nonprofit organization to understand and articulate its contribution to a larger community marketplace and then craft organization goals around that knowledge. Without a good strategic plan a nonprofit is just twisting in the wind — probably doing a lot of work, but to what end?