What Startups Can Learn from Nonprofits

Working in both the start up and the nonprofit worlds, you get to see a lot from both sides of the fence. What I’ve come to learn is that despite their obvious differences, these two industries have a lot more in common: they’re both run by people passionate about solving the problem that they’re addressing, they’re both typically operating on tight budgets and they both need to be sure to take advice from either side of the fence to grow. That said, here’s a few things that startups can learn from nonprofits.

Appreciation. Nonprofits excel when it comes to showing appreciation. Every year they’re sending out letters recognizing the donations that were made by their various donors. Granted, this is in no small part for tax purposes but the smart ones do it well and take it as an opportunity to say thank you and talk a little about the successes that they’ve been able to accomplish over the past year. Any new business should find a way to put this same idea into play. Whether it’s a push notification through an app, a year in review to investors or a letter to customers, expressing appreciation to the people who made your success possible is a great way to solidify support.

Setting Realistic Goals. With the responsibility that nonprofits have to their boards of directors, funders and the populations that they serve, they tend to take their responsibility of goal setting very seriously. The danger of setting unrealistic goals – or worse yet, no goals at all – can send an organization spiraling out of control. Set SMART goals, write them down and refer back to them to make sure that you’re tracking toward success.

Surround Yourself with Advisors. Nonprofits are legally required to assemble a board of directors which provides them an instant panel of expert advice (assuming they put together a strong board of directors). Some also assemble an advisory board to add to the experience from which they can draw. Startups often times find themselves isolated because they’re spending so much time focused on the work that they’re doing. This kind of tunnel vision tends to limit their effectiveness and can ultimately limit or kill their ability for growth. Remember that your organization is only as good as the people involved – make a list of the kind of advice you want to access and find people to fill those holes.

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Posted in Ian's Library, Nonprofits, Startups.

One Comment

  1. I think that another lesson that startups could learn is feeling good about what you do. Part of staying motivated is your ability to look at what you do on a daily basis and be proud of your accomplishments.

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