Monday, January 21, 2013

We Can’t Afford...

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard this opening gambit from a nonprofit, I could retire and live large on some private island. 

“We can’t afford an executive director.  We can’t afford to pay a fundraising professional.  We can’t afford marketing. We can’t afford a website.  We can’t afford to hire employees.” 

What this says to me, and more importantly to any donor, is “We can’t afford to achieve our mission”. 

The very first thing you need to do ask yourself is “Why would anyone give us money?”  The answer is NOT “Because we are broke”.  The answer should be “Because we are a well-run company that can leverage donor dollars to achieve a mission result we both believe in”.

Donors and grant-makers want to know that you have an organization that is capable of actually achieving results. That means that your charitable business must be a business first, and a charity second. 

If you think that identifying a need and offering services to fill that need is the beginning of your successful nonprofit, you have it backwards.  You MUST have the structure to support your mission. Whether you are just now beginning the process of incorporating and forming your nonprofit, or you have been in business for ten years, if you don’t have a successful business, you have nothing to offer a donor. 

I have nothing but the deepest respect for the motives of all the people out there that are unselfishly trying to fill niches in our society that are under-served.  You are my heroes. But even heroes need their cape, or their spider-web shooters, and your super-hero tool is organization. 

Whether you are new or established, please sit down with your board of directors and decide to succeed.  Do a SWOT analysis. Compare yourself to a similarly-sized for-profit business.  Develop realistic programs and set a budget for them.  Set up realistic funding goals.  Get over the idea that your organization should not make a profit. In fact, other than using it as a descriptor, lose the word nonprofit completely. You have to make a profit, or you’ll be out of business, and you won’t be able to help anyone or anything. Start defining yourself as a charitable business instead of the defeatist term, "nonprofit".

Cloudlancer Writing Services can help you  achieve your goals with strategic planning, program development, personnel and policy manuals, and grant writing when you are grant-ready. Give me a shout at

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