The first things that come to mind when one hears the word “non-profit” are limited resources and ethical responsibility. It is easy to assume that the board of directors of a non-profit organization is formed specifically to manage these distinguishing qualities and therefore is equipped with the expertise to navigate such waters gracefully.
However, both of these challenges manifest in a number of related issues that ultimately tie up the board’s time and effectiveness. If a board is focused only on the big picture, these key details may not be properly addressed.
Below are the top three problem areas, as well as some suggestions on how to mitigate these issues.
Acquiring and engaging donors
Public channels for fundraising efforts have moved online and fragmented. The Internet is saturated with outreach and requests, and it is difficult to gain a share of voice.
Even if one succeeds, donations have become fractured. A recent analysis of fundraising trends among millennials shows that 61 percent of donors age 20 to 35 give smaller donations to an average of three to five different organizations, rather than giving a large donation to a single charity. A non-profit must stand out from and/or work together with similar organizations, and will have to compete or partner with any such marketing efforts.
Additionally, audiences have become more skeptical in the dawn of “fake news” and must be convinced that the organization can deliver.
The board needs to establish a clear messaging strategy to distinguish the organization; inform and attract the right kind of donors, and actively engage with existing donors to ensure continued funding. To do this, the board must be aware of trends, competitors, and the political and social conversation, and this requires a streamlined flow of information and communication.
Attracting and retaining talent
The pool of talent attracted to non-profit organizations is small because the work is often more demanding and the salary is significantly lower. People attracted to such organizations typically have more altruistic motivations and are often using the organization as a training ground and stepping stone.
One must, therefore, engage people on a deeper level that allows them to experience the personal satisfaction that comes from their contribution. This means motivating them with satisfying responsibilities, leadership opportunities, team activities, and mentorship.
At the end of the day, however, turnover will be inevitable, and there must be a good plan for passing the torch. A well-documented system of organization, document storage, and task management can help tremendously in this process.
Navigating red tape and documentation
Red tape is unavoidable in any organization, but especially one that serves a social or environmental good. Even the most mundane activities require extensive documentation, organization, and a clear process for navigating policies, forms, and procedures.
Bookkeeping is also more challenging for a non-profit organization because financial resources come from a variety of sources and are intermittent. Hiring a finance person is sometimes out of the budget, and the responsibility lands on a secretary or other individual who has many additional responsibilities.
Management of both of these issues can be dramatically improved with an organizational system and clear process that is accessible across the board.
For more information and support in navigating these challenges, check out the Board Management’s board portal software.