Starting a business or nonprofit organization is not for the faint of heart. It takes drive, persistence and a lot of work. Buckle up as we talk about some key skills nonprofit leaders need and things to consider when structuring a nonprofit organization.
#1. Starting and running a nonprofit organization is like starting and running a business.
No, we are not here to make a profit, however we do have to think about how to cover our expenses while executing our mission. Many organizations, like businesses, are self funded by a Founder or a group of people until money from donations and fundraisers start pouring in. This is a common start, but not a place to stay in forever. Strategizing how and where to get funding or achieve sustainability is key to keeping the doors open.
#2. Be intentional.
Be intentional, strategic and also targeted in who you are serving and your mission. Be generic enough to not limit your funding options while not being a jack of all trades. This is a hard balance to strike and few organizations have a mission statement worded to do both well, however this is where the key to success lies. Also, once this is decided, be sure it is clear on your website and all messaging.
#3. Be frugal.
Don't jump out in year 1 and incur expenses for professional assistance if you don't absolutely have to. Enlist help from attorney's and CPA's from the onset as much as you can, but think of potential Board members, people in your network, pro bono services, etc that can help reduce your costs in the beginning. This is no means easy, however a quick word of advice over a coffee chat can save a lot of headache down the road and save upfront expenses. Then after you've exhausted these free or low price resources, then budget for professional help - you will need it.
#4. Nonprofit leaders must be selfless.
Passion is a beautiful thing and sometimes passion combined with drive can get you through the tough times. You may be tired. You may be broke. You may have to pay yourself last. In the end, it's totally worth it.
#5. Nonprofit leaders must be comfortable asking for money.
If you break out in hives at the thought of asking for money, maybe you may want to reconsider this. Yes, you can hire a development officer or a fundraising executive to handle the bulk of it, but as the leader of the organization, you will be depended on to seek funding.
#6. Nonprofit leaders must know how to engage people.
You need to know how to tell your story and get people passionate about it whether it's your volunteers or the Mayor of your city, you must know how to activate people's interest in your organization or cause.
#7. Nonprofit leaders can't be afraid to take the road less traveled.
There is no defined roadmap on how to lead a nonprofit organization. You have to be brave enough to take the journey that few take, listen to wise counsel, look at what the data is telling you and trust your gut.
Congratulations for taking the first step! It's all worth it in the end.
Shavonn Richardson is Founder of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™ www.thinkandinkgrants.com. She is a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, speaker and also a member of the Grant Professionals Association.
Read this and other blog posts at Think and Ink Grants™ Blog