Top 10 Tips for Nonprofits

This post was written by Nonprofit Software, who helps nonprofit organizations make smart and cost-effective decisions regarding their software purchases.  We understand that there are many considerations outside of software, so we developed this resource to take the guesswork out of nonprofit software, with everything from nonprofit volunteer management tips to donation management software advice.


Whether you are starting a nonprofit or expanding your existing nonprofit, there are a few important details that should not be overlooked.  From hiring to creating or enhancing programming to planning for the future, the approach to fostering your organizations stability should be a holistic one. The following is a list of tips for nonprofits that are frequently overlooked.  These tips have been divided into different areas of focus.



1. Conduct a needs assessment

When organizations take the time to do a needs assessment before they begin the hiring process they often find the best match for the position. Organizations need to take a look at the skills that their employees already have and also determine which skills are lacking. In doing so, they are more likely to promote from within which can eliminate costly training time and increase employee morale. Further, they are able to hire an individual with skills that fill in the gaps and round out the strengths of the organization.


2. Attracting the best candidates

Once you decide to post for a position, determine the qualifications or capabilities that are absolute requirements. These qualities should come out of your needs assessment. Then list the experiences or expertise that would be a bonus for an employee to have. Once you pare your desired skills down into these categories you can then sort your candidates into those that meet your absolute requirements and move forward from there.  It is important that you keep an open mind when looking for candidates and categorizing these qualifications and qualities can help you to keep your search as open as possible.


Strategic Planning

3. Conduct an environment assessment

Look around at the political, social, and economical environment and reflect on how these may affect your organization, as well as how your organization is acting in response to these factors. Understanding these will help you look for opportunities and avoid pitfalls.


4. Conduct an internal assessment

Analyzing your organizations weaknesses and strengths is a critical part of any strategic plan and truly should be part of an ongoing self-reflective process. By conducting this kind of assessment you are more likely to make decisions that further strengthen your organization and help you to understand your direction, roles and goals.


5. Establish mission statement and determine your organizational values

Having a clearly articulated mission statement will help you to shape programming, steer your course and detail your organizational values. This will guide you throughout your work and help you to make decisions as you move toward your goals.


6. Identify goals and map out how to achieve them

Your goals should be based upon what you determine during your environmental and internal assessments and should include a timeline, strategies, roles, performance goals and program design. This planning process is crucial to the strength and wellness of your organization and it is an ongoing process that is part of both the management system and checks and balances of the business.



7. Focus on your mission

When you are searching for funding it is easy to be pulled off course and attempt to bend your programming to meet the requirements or agenda of the funder. Forcing a fit wastes everyone’s time and even if you get your Letter of Intent approved it is unlikely that your proposal will be awarded funding. Having said this, it is also important to diversify your funding sources and not depend on one or two foundations or contracts. Careful research and clear, clean connections between your mission and your programming will go a long way in making you attractive for funding.


8. Fine-tune your development strategies

Especially in challenging economic times, it is important to work smarter in terms of your fundraising efforts. During your internal assessment, figure our which of your fundraising programs are most effective and efficient and concentrate your resources and efforts toward these programs.


Media Relations

9. Know the publication

Before sending a press releases or story to a publication make sure that it is a good fit. Sending a story that is off-focus or outside of the scope of the publication, column or feature section only clutters up the desk of the editor or reporter you are trying to court. Bombarding them with these stories increases the likelihood that your requests for coverage will go quickly into the reject pile.


10. Know the kind of coverage you want                             

There are a few different types of coverage that you can request from a publication: a lead-in to an event via a story about a person or something related to the event, coverage after the event or a listing in the calendar. Thinking about the coverage that best suits your needs will help you to decide how to approach the publication as efficiently as possible. Editors and reporters appreciate clear, succinct requests that they can fit into their publication seamlessly without a great deal of searching or digging to find an interesting angle or a story that works.

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