The New Nonprofit Model: Organizational Sustainability Through Leadership & Mission
In the nonprofit world, every organization needs one thing in order to survive: a strong nonprofit leadership team. The sector is becoming more and more competitive by the day—just look at the numbers. We push out this statistic a lot, and that’s because we want to educate the sector on what they’re up against. There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., according to the National Center of Charitable Statistics, so it’s dire that every nonprofit that truly wants to achieve its mission for the sustainable future think long and hard about its leadership team and what it should look like because without a leadership team to lead the nonprofit in the right direction, the organization will be at risk of crumbling.
Earlier this year, NonProfit PRO released its “2018 Leadership Impact Study,” which looked into the key challenges facing nonprofit leadership teams today and how they can overcome them. In the study, we found that one of the biggest challenges that leadership teams face is resources. Nearly 62 percent of study respondents said that their nonprofit’s top challenge was having a lack of resources, which can be a combination of many things (money, time, staff, etc.); but we believe that the way nonprofits can help improve outcomes and create a sustainable nonprofit business model is to invest money in things that deliver big impact: staff and technology.
A strong leadership will bring to the table innovative ideas and passion, and technology will bring efficiency and time-saving benefits. In this cover story, we wanted to explore how nonprofits can leverage their leadership team to deliver exponential results and how technology can play a role in the nonprofit ecosystem. To answer these questions, we wanted to sit down with a top-tier nonprofit that has proven to be titan in our industry—and has the leadership team to back it up.
NonProfit PRO had an exclusive interview with Shanna Hocking, the associate VP of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a children’s health institution that was founded in 1855 by Francis West Lewis, MD. CHOP is a multi-billion dollar organization that oversees over 15,000 employees, so an organization that manages such a high-level number of employees and proceeds to increase their revenue over the years knows a thing—or two—about effective leadership.
Staying True to the Nonprofit’s Mission
As your nonprofit continues to grow and it receives more donations and a bigger donor following, it’s inevitable that your nonprofit will evolve as well—and that’s great. But the one thing that your nonprofit never wants to change is its mission. The nonprofit’s mission is the sole reason why the nonprofit was created—and why it exists. It’s also the reason why donors have gravitated toward your mission… because they truly believe in the work that you’re doing to create change in this world.
“Every organization is different, and, yet, I believe that any organization can be successful when you identify what is most meaningful to donors and figure out how that aligns with your mission and your goals. For us at CHOP, we focus on the full continuum of the donor relationships, we really think about the importance of both individuals and organizations, and then we rely on very successful partnerships with our caregivers, our physicians, our nurses, our clinical staff and our volunteers. Those partnerships help us to implement our fundraising strategy,” Hocking said.
It’s no big surprise, donor engagement helps with cultivation, stewardship and retention. But thinking and acting on donor engagement is equally important internally as it is externally. The practices that nonprofits utilize to engage donors are the practices that the nonprofit should also be using with its staff. An engaged staff that feels like leadership has their best interest at heart and has passion for the mission will also bestow passionate staff members.
“My success is based on my colleagues’ success, and I spend a lot of time trying to understand what their motivations are, what their goals are for them to be successful and I think that, as fundraisers or for anyone in advancement, we're best positioned to do that kind of high-level cultivation,” Hocking said.
Keeping the mission in the frontline is crucial for nonprofit success, which is why Hocking strongly advises that it’s the responsibility of all nonprofit leaders to train the next generation of leadership to ensure that our organizations are vital in the future.
“I think that we owe that to the next generation to be able to prepare them, to help our organization be successful,” she added.
Where Technology Fits In
Technology has revolutionized the sector in how it communicates, records, tracks, and reports. It’s no longer a one-way strategy anymore, and we promise that we’re not trying to tell you that print is dead—it’s not. Print still plays a central part on how nonprofits engage donors. In fact, direct mail has a median ROI of 29 percent, according to the Data & Marketing Association, which is higher than paid search ads.
Using print in combination with newer advanced online tools gives nonprofits more leverage, helping nonprofits stay relevant and effectively communicate with their constituents.
“Technology is changing how [CHOP] is personalizing cultivation and stewardship. Like most people, we use a lot of data to inform what we do, we have tools that maximize our relationship management. I think that all organizations have to be more comfortable using data,” Hocking said.
It’s no secret that’s there’s a new world of technology out there, and it’s overwhelming to understand all the technology opportunities out there. And while you’re out there, educating yourself about the different technologies and how it applies to your nonprofit, it’s vital to factor in the following questions:
- How will this technology benefit our nonprofit?
- Will this be advantageous to our workflow?
- How will our donors respond to this technology?
- Will this significantly improve our donor relationships?
And if you’re scratching your head about this new technological arena that we’ve entered, not to fret. There are plenty of resources out there for your nonprofit needs—whether it be donor management, case management, event management, data management. Here, at NonProfit PRO, we are especially interested in educating ourselves and our audience about the nonprofit technology space, so you can visit www.nonprofitpro.com to learn more.
The final piece of technology that we want to touch on is impact. Impact is such a relevant topic in the nonprofit space. Not only are our nonprofit organizations evolving, but our donors are evolving, too. They’re no longer thinking about, “Wow, this nonprofit has a great mission. Let me support them by monthly donations.” Donor thought patterns and behaviors have tremendously changed. Now, they’re thinking, “OK. This mission statement sounds like something I can support. But there are X number of nonprofits that are advocating the same thing, working for the same end goal. If I donate, how do I know where my money is going? And if it’s going toward the mission?”
We’re in a generation of philanthropists and influencers of social good. Donors want to know what they’re supporting and how they’re making a difference, so what every nonprofit needs to do is record their impact and report it. But how can nonprofits impact report optimally?
Hocking believes it’s important to understand what the donor preferences are and then communicate according to those preferences. Nonprofits need to work on making the donors feel engaged with the organization.
“Stewardship is an ongoing conversation. It can come in written format, stewardship reports and magazines, which we do. It could also be an in-person conversation, with a fundraiser or with the clinician who is directly using those funds to make a difference. We try to use all those different strategies to complement the stewardship in different ways at different times, recognizing what's most valuable for that particular donor,” Hocking said.
With all of this said, at the least, leadership is a really interesting and relevant topic. We believe that the nonprofit sector is finally catching up to the for-profit sector in that sense. Nonprofits are beginning to recognize the importance of leadership and how it translates in to a nonprofit’s success, and we’re looking forward to seeing where innovation takes it and how it will continue to evolve in the next decade or so.
What leadership strategies is your nonprofit engaging in that you think our sector would benefit from? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: This was the cover story to NonProfit PRO's 2018 November/December issue. To read the entire issue, click here.