Four Keys to Nonprofit Success

By Bill Jacobs, Founder & Managing Partner AnalyticalOnes

I’ve recently read Cecile Richard’s new book, Make Trouble. She offers some simple but great advice for anyone working to start any organization, but I think it’s particularly appropriate for nonprofit organizations.

Ms. Richard’s points are:

1. Set concrete goals that can be achieved

Too often in nonprofit circles, missions and goals are filled with goals of “transforming lives” or “giving hope.” While these aspirational goals are inspiring, they aren’t concrete. Concrete goals are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-sensitive).

2. Be willing to ask for money

You’d think this would be a no-brainer in the nonprofit world, but it is amazing how often we hear about Executive Directors or Board members who are scared to ask for money. I love Richard’s approach to fundraising, that will alleviate some of those fears: “If you ask for money, you will get advice. If you ask for advice you will get money.” This is so simple, but it is critical. Engaging people beyond their pocketbook is the key to getting into their pocketbook.

3. Take big risks

Anyone who has started an organization knows, rightly or wrongly, they ultimately own all of the successes, and of all the failures. So you may as well think big.

4. Master organizational rules

Make sure everyone has a voice in every meeting, and make sure they have a specific action item when they leave. And the “small” stuff isn’t small at all (name tags, food, start on-time, end on-time) and most importantly – have fun.

Richards’ main advice is to get involved in this issues that you care about. And if one uses the guidelines above and focuses on the fight and not the outcome, activism can be a very rewarding way of life.