What does it mean to be a successful and effective nonprofit? Learn the five leadership principles to equip you to be an effective nonprofit organization.

What does it mean to be a successful and effective nonprofit? Every nonprofit exists to make the world a better place in their community. From the smallest nonprofit to the largest organization, the definition of success often comes down to one central question: “Did you achieve your mission?” More than that, though, did you reach the people you set out to serve, and did you do it in a way that enables you to serve well into the future? Nonprofit leaders often define success in terms of accomplishments like financial viability, donor retention, or program reach. These are important and valuable ways to measure your organization’s impact, but they aren’t the entire story. They don’t reflect how you’ve positioned your organization with a mindset that will equip you for future success and growth. If you want to be successful and effective in the future, apply these five leadership principles to adapt to the challenges 2021 is sure to bring.

Leadership Principle #1: Diversify Your Fundraising Sources

“The future is always coming up with surprises for us, and the best way to insulate yourself from these surprises is to diversify.” – Robert J. Shiller.

Many nonprofit organizations woke up on the other side of COVID-19, realizing they were entirely too dependent on events and other in-person fundraising tactics. Successful nonprofits take a balanced approach to fundraising. They cultivate major donors, individual gifts, and foundations so that when giving lags in one area, they still have revenue from other areas. They also have a recurring giving program to provide regular, predictable donations.

Leadership Principle #2: Take an Agile Approach to Decision Making

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent that survive but those who best manage change.” ~ Charles Darwin

Agile Workflow

A few years ago, DonorPerfect migrated to an agile project methodology. If you aren’t familiar with Agile, it’s a collaborative decision-making process that manages projects by breaking them down into increments called “sprints.” For each sprint, our development team works towards a goal (e.g., Send personalized videos to donors) and gathers feedback from you, our clients, during the process. With this approach, we’ve implemented hundreds of your ideas to improve DonorPerfect over the years. While it makes sense for a software development team to follow this methodology, could it work in another environment? Surprisingly, DonorPerfect’s Marketing and Communications Department relied on agile processes during COVID-19 to pivot our content to help you navigate this new world of fundraising. We were able to make changes on the fly, providing a library of COVID-19 resources to help you engage with donors and successfully navigate fundraising.

We saw similar results in the nonprofit organizations we served. Organizations that adapted to the new world of online fundraising, crowdfunding, and virtual auctions and events met or exceeded their fundraising goals. They might not have been following Agile’s exact rules, but their flexibility opened the door to pivotal decisions that made them successful.

Leadership Principle #3: Develop a Multi-Channel Fundraising Strategy

“If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them.” ~ Jeff Brooks

Data shows that donors who engage with your nonprofit in multiple ways stick around longer, and in turn, give four times as often as an online or offline-only donor. These multi-channel donors give online through your website and emails. They like and share your social media posts. They attend your fundraising events, sign up for volunteer opportunities, and invite their friends to come along, too. This engaged group of donors is an essential part of any nonprofit, so including them in your fundraising strategy is key.

Leadership Principle #4: Map Out Your Engagement Plan

“Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.” Hank Rosso

You’ve set your program goals, determined expenses, and outlined a fundraising plan that details exactly how many new donors are needed to support your mission. Where should you look to begin adding new names to your donor lists? Whether you’re new to fundraising or a seasoned pro, finding new donors to support your nonprofit organization can be challenging. Map out your engagement plan to discover individuals, corporations, and others that already have some connection with you. Get started with this list of 19 places potential donors could be hiding.

Leadership Principle #5: Inspire and Equip Your Board to Fundraise

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams.

Fundraising is an essential responsibility for any member of a nonprofit board. Funders will often ask what level of direct financial support you’ve secured from your board, so it’s important that your board members are actively helping your organization to fundraise. Getting your board inspired to fundraise can be a difficult task. It’s challenging to ask for money, so, understandably, your board members may not be comfortable with this task. However, by providing them with clear expectations and the proper tools they’ll need to help you reach your goals, you can move your mission forward.

Share Your Tips and Advice for Nonprofit Organization Success

How are you preparing to be a more effective nonprofit organization? What lessons have you taken from the past year to drive change and improve your organization’s reach? Share your tips and advice in the Development and Fundraising Professionals group in DP Community (account required) or in the comments section of this blog post. We’d love to hear from you!

by Stephanie Kanak

Jan 12 21
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