Is It Time to Scale Your Nonprofit?
You have a mission in mind. You’ve drawn up your bylaws and values, you understand your business model and what you’re trying to achieve, you have a few people working on the internal team and there are a handful of trusted advisors acting as your board. Congratulations – you’ve officially started your nonprofit! Now comes the hard part: growing.
Scaling a nonprofit means honing in on what makes a nonprofit a business. And yes, your nonprofit is a business and needs to grow in a sustainable way. Just as most businesses grow from an initial idea, to a start-up, to a scale-up before hitting enterprise level, there are stages to growing a nonprofit.
6 Key Elements to Consider When Scaling a Nonprofit
Expanding Your Board Into Committees
If you’re thinking about expanding your board into committees, ask yourself these questions:
- Where do we need to the most focus or the most help? Start here with your first committee and expand to other areas of need.
- Do we need to bring in any new subject matter experts to assist? While your board members are people who are passionate and dedicated to your cause, committee members can be external contractors or subject matter experts who can provide guidance and assistance.
- Are any of our internal employees or volunteers in a position to help? Committees are a great place to bridge the gap between the board and your employees and volunteers.
Upgrading to Professional Processes and Tools
Like any business that is in the process of growing and scaling, a successful nonprofit needs the right tools and processes to get it to the next level. Once you have a team and you’re starting to get a little larger, it’s time to begin considering new internal tools and resources, like Professional Employment Organizations (PEOs). PEOs are the perfect solution for businesses that want to deliver the benefits and perks to employees without the financial risk.
Having a Strong Fundraising Model
The first step in any nonprofit is to develop your business model and fundraising model to actually raise funds to impact your mission. When it comes to actually executing on this fundraising, however, many smaller nonprofits use fundraising consultants and grant writers to help give them the initial push they need.
Grant writers are contractors who help find and apply for grants. One best practice is to look at the track record and experience of these contractors to see how successful they have been before deciding whether to pay them hourly or based on the commission of their grants.
Managing the Transition of Board Members
Within the first three to five years of the founding your nonprofit, you’ll begin to see changes within your board. It’s important to realize that being on a board is not a long-term commitment. The most successful boards transition members on a three to four year basis, which brings new blood and new ideas to the table.
Having a strong continuity plan and continuity infrastructure in place is key to ensure the transitions your organization will experience during this scale-up process run smoothly. Relying on alternatives, like email, DropBox or Google Drive, might fix a short-term problem, but these tools will only create more confusion down the road. It’s never a good idea to put the success of your board, and essentially the success of your nonprofit, in the hands of a single person’s inbox.
Delivering Charitable Services at Scale
Growth is incredibly subjective to every organization, but it all starts with collecting feedback, metrics and data on the success of your mission. Here are a few places you can start to gather data around to help determine if your team needs to update your offerings at all.
- Ask donors, supporters, volunteers and board members for feedback on how your nonprofit is acting on its mission.
- Put metrics and milestones in place to start measuring impact through spreadsheets.
- Build an annual report that represents a holistic picture of your business to be shared with board members, in marketing materials and in grant proposals.
- Use this information to make smarter decisions, investments and choices to move your organization forward and increase your impact.
Creating a Culture Based on Values and Vision
At its foundation, the culture of your team has to do with your values or the impact you want to have on the world. Your team culture will influence how your team interacts with each other, with donors and with beneficiaries. Your nonprofit’s mission (who, how and why you serve people) and your vision (the ideal world where there is no reason for your nonprofit to exist) should be a driving force behind every person you hire.
With the right people on the team, you can create a staff hierarchy, build out an internal leadership team and build a cohesive relationship between your nonprofit and your board.
Scaling a nonprofit from its founding to helping more of the community takes planning, patience and wisdom. The people served by your mission are counting on you to keep up the good work!
Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.