In these tough times, many non-profits are struggling. Even in the best of times, if you’re not holding sustainability as a key goal, you’re probably miscalculating. There’s nothing easy or fun abut fighting for sustainability, but without question, there are very real steps you can take, and there’s a method to it.
Here are some keys to keeping your non-profit sustainable:
If you’re reading this as the head of your organization, it all starts with you. The middle is you and the end is you. Well, that’s not quite true. Sustainability does depend on all members of your non-profit, but you’re the one in charge. Studies have shown the connection between strong leadership and sustainability. Bringing in more funds depends on the overall infrastructure—all the little things add up, and having everyone and everything in your organization working at peak is your task.
Morale is key, and as simple as it seems, attending to it amounts to attending to sustainability, not just to minor psychological concerns. New York Cares, an organization devoted to drumming up support for a variety of causes, is an award-winning non-profit. Its head stresses that the organization has closely attended to morale, having theme birthday parties, staff outings, and all-volunteer projects.
Now, if you’re saying “it’ll take a bit more than birthday parties,” that’s a fair point. It does. It takes things like sharing risks, rewards, and responsibilities with staff. But more than that, it’s all about having a clear and unwavering vision. That might sound obvious, yet not all leaders demonstrate this. Showing your team at all times that you are always on point and on message is absolutely clear.
Heads of non-profits are asked to wear an awful lot of hats. The biggest loyalty all of them have is to the cause at hand. But the head of the non-profit has to exercise financial prowess. An organization called the TCC Group has implemented, in more than 10 different years, its CCAT test: Core Capacity Assessment Tool, to gauge non-profits’ viability. It found that just 24% of non-profits scored well in the area of financial leadership.
For the purposes of this discussion, financial leadership can be defined as the ability to raise funds among larger entities such as corporations and government organizations. These sources are the biggest predictors of sustainability.
Not only that, but having government decision makers on your side is very important—it goes beyond financial support, but all sorts of support.
One reason why non-profits may be resistant to change is that they answer to many parties. They’re built on ideology and many people involved, such as board members, feel that adaptation means selling out ideals.
Adaptability hinges on the willingness to perform reviews, but, more importantly, to act on the results of the reviews. This can mean seeking funds through different channels, to take measures to lower overhead, or even to change some of the goals of the organization. Changing some of what the organization does and accomplishes can ultimately help your fundraising.
All of these boil down to clear and assertive decision making. Making decisions, sticking with them, and executing is what heading up a non-profit are all about.