June 1, 2016
I am usually writing about small businesses-having lent to, counseled and worked with small businesses throughout my career. I have been privileged, however, to also work with many not for profits-business related, civic, social service and philanthropic- serving as a board member, lending to, and working with in multiple capacities. I currently proudly serve on the boards of directors for the NASSAU AHRC Foundation and Community Trusts (serving children & adults with developmental disabilities) and the LI Community Foundation, part of the NY Community Trust (connecting donors with charitable organizations and effecting social change in our region), among others.
From those experiences I have gleaned a few tidbits I wanted to share, especially because lately I seem to be getting as many requests for advice about nfp’s as for business…
1. Don’t discard the “formers.” In other words- it is not all about “what have you done for me lately”. All not for profits have former donors, former board members, former committee members, former officers, former staff, former volunteers, former clients and their families. All of these “formers” can be continuing resources for the organization. Keep them engaged and they may very well be not only the “formers” but also the present and future financial supporters, resources etc. How to keep them engaged? Form an emeritus board for retiring board members; form a president’s and/or chairman’s council for prior presidents/chairmen; create an advisory board for any of these formers plus other resources you can’t have on your formal board of directors. Have periodic events to which you invite these groups. Keep them informed by maintaining them on your mailing /communication lists/forums (in other words don’t defriend nor delink someone once they leave). Send them your email blasts, newsletters, special targeted communications. Acknowledge and thank them for their service-maybe a roll of honor on your web site or in your newsletter, actual awards for their contributions. People’s interests change with their life circumstances. They may once again return to the fold-with financial support or other resources including contacts to additional supporters. But, if you treat them as “out of sight out of mind” that will be their attitude towards you too. Remember, if they once had a passion for your organization/ cause- it is more easily rekindled than trying to recruit someone without that passion.
2. Have a business plan-with short term, medium term and long term goals. And, revisit it at least once/year to see if you’re on track or need to modify it with changing times. Not for profits must act like businesses because that is what they are. They must be professional and current in their approach to everything –staff, technology, fundraising, operations. For nfps it’s not about beating the competition (it shouldn’t be) but about serving its mission and constituents in the best most effective manner possible.
3. Don’t try to compete- leverage resources! In these days of waning government funding, changing philanthropy etc., most nfps are challenged with having enough resources to operate effectively. Look around at the other nfps with the same or similar missions, who serve the same or similar targeted populations. Look for the opportunities to join together- whether that starts with some joint events or moves to lose alliances or ends in complete acquisition or merger. The end goal should be fulfilling the mission, servicing the constituents in the best way possible.
4. Take advantage of resources. There are numerous resources out there for nfp’s-
Universities/colleges- many have departments dealing with topics relevant to your nfp/constituent needs-establish internships, programs with the entities. Some of the colleges have entrepreneurship centers, business development centers and other centers which will work with nfps. Adelphi has the Center for Nonprofit Leadership. Molloy has the Nonprofit Management Certificate Program and the Energeia Partnership. Hofstra and SCCC have the Entrepreneurial Assistance Centers. NYIT has its Entrepreneurial & Technology Innovation Center. Hofstra Law School has numerous clinics dealing with nfp issues/clientele. Touro Law School has a clinic working directly with nfps. And there are many others.
a. LICF and its parent NYCT- the professional staff and experienced board of advisors at the LICF are always willing to help a local nfp with the vast resources at its disposal (which include the staff and resources of its parent NYCT) - on both individual and group bases. United Way of LI also has a skilled staff and board ready and able to work with nfps on any number of needs. Keep in mind, these organizations are looking to accomplish an end goal with their donors’ moneys- and they need the nfps receiving their grants to be able to perform and accomplish that end goal.
b. NESC- National Executive Service Corps. - provides management consulting services to nonprofits.
c. SCORE-Service Corps. Of Retired Executives (an SBA partner) - uses retired and working executives to provide business planning and ongoing mentoring to small businesses and not for profits alike.
d. SBDC’- Small Business Development Centers (also an SBA partner)-uses professional business counselors and all the resources of NYS to provide business plans, mentoring, and project research and counseling.
e. Other business resources- when it comes to issues with operations, the needs of for profit businesses and nfp’s are similar or the same. The providers of assistance to small businesses can be of equal value to the nfp’s. So, seek out those professionals and organizations which can help with the specific need whether the organization targets nfps or small businesses.
And, remember; reach out to those “formers.” They can be a wealth of resources-financial and otherwise- to your not for profit organization.