Is Your Nonprofit a 4-Star Operation?
Having worked and consulted with multiple nonprofit organizations through the years, I have studied each nonprofit to see if they have four-star success in a variety of areas. In a perfect scenario, each major element of the nonprofit would be constantly analyzed to see if they incorporate four-star material.
The key areas I am talking about include administration (leadership), employees (dedicated and performance-driven), volunteers (who are passionate about the organizational mission) and board members (accountable for owning success).
In my scoring system of stars, one star is failing, two stars is average, three stars is above average and four stars sets the standard for others to follow. The goal of every nonprofit should be to average four stars in every category.
Mission Capital’s article, “6 Elements of an Effective Nonprofit,” provides the context that a nonprofit is a house. The house should have a strong foundation, thoughtful framing, a blueprint for the layout of rooms and wiring, and the goal of housing a family. An effective nonprofit also needs a basic framework around to live out its mission.
All effective nonprofits need the following five structural elements:
- Clarity of purpose through the development of a strategic plan.
- Sustainable business model through targeting your key audience and clients and building a strong culture of philanthropy.
- The right leadership that works toward meaningful, measurable and financially sustainable results that also engage the right board involvement.
- Smart operations that include having the right staff and volunteers and the tools to make success happen.
- Implementation and improvement with a focus on quality and correct metrics.
- Strategic collaborations that ensure organizations operate strategically and secure partners with similar goals and objectives.
When you think of leaders (CEOs) of nonprofit organizations, Moran Company notes that no one has all these traits, but they are something to aspire to as leaders. These attributes are self-starter, passion for the organization’s mission, ability to accept and motivate others, servant leadership, deals well with conflict, thinks strategically and implements tactically, financial acumen, fundraising skills, ability to listen, sound judgment, persistence and stamina.
Forbes states that outstanding employees in today’s world need to know a lot about the organization they work for plus their industry. They are very proactive and suggest ways to make the work faster and easier. They have ideas and share them with others.
The 10 qualities of outstanding employees are knowing the reasons their job exists; notice their work environment and integrate content learning in their jobs; form great relationships with people inside and outside the company; look ahead and anticipate problems; tell the truth about workload, work life balance, etc.; have a personal career plan or direction in mind; address conflict rather than avoid it; ask for help when they need it; don’t rest on their educational credentials, honors or brag; and they are coaches and mentors to others. These qualities will serve an employee well throughout their career.
Volunteers are also a key component of a nonprofit operation. According AIESEC, what distinguishes a good volunteer from great volunteers is their passion and drive to bring about positive change with their work.
Great volunteers also have the following characteristics:
- They have a fearless approach and put others needs before your emotions.
- They have infinite patience with systems and processes.
- They can think creatively when resources are limited.
- They are eager to take initiative and be proactive with their duties.
- They stay humble about their work and seek positive change.
- They are driven by passion to make an organizational impact.
- They can work in teams and appreciate everyone’s contribution.
Four-star nonprofit organizations also have outstanding boards. Jay Love, CEO of Bloomerang wrote an article that provides eight favorite characteristics of outstanding board members.
These characteristics are as follows:
- Pre-existing passion for the cause.
- Eagerness to participate at every meeting.
- Willing to prepare ahead for meetings.
- Anxious to serve on committees.
- Ability and propensity to give above average financially.
- Strong desire for stewardship to others.
- Supportive, but willing to express their own opinion.
- Strives to learn as much as possible.
Think about these attributes as you search for future board members.
Think about the component parts of your nonprofit organization, such as administration, employees, volunteers, boards and other key structures. If you could rate each component on a four-star system, how many would rate as a four, or even a three today? The goal is for each nonprofit to have a four-star average rating based upon each component. Think about what you could do or what your leadership could do to increase your organizational star power. It will not be easy but always strive to have your nonprofit the one others emulate and know as best of class, a truly four-star model!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.