Underwhelming leadership, a reactive approach to technology, and a communications strategy that hasn’t evolved since 1999. This is the sorry state most nonprofits find themselves in. Leadership’s difficult to change, technology changes too much to understand, and marketing teams with a bad case of the “but it’s what we’ve always done!’s” syndrome.
You’re worse off than you thought if you don’t admit to having a problem.
The good news is that there is hope for you. Change isn’t fatal, not adapting is. Below are three thoughts on why I think many nonprofits are becoming obsolete. Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments below.
1. It’s never been easier to create a nonprofit.
It’s easier to start a business today, for and not for profit, than it was 20 years ago. The fact that you can start a nonprofit without leaving your couch (over simplification) is bound to increase the amount of entities that are started. The ease of entry to the market has caused an influx of nonprofits starting and subsequently dying before they had the chance to see the light of day all because some other organization with a more pressing issue moved into town. They cannibalize the publics’ wallet share for donations, with more and more organizations asking people for charitable dollars, the more difficult it is for charities to acquire the donations they used to collect with little to no effort.
Solution: Create loyalty. I weird concept for a nonprofit? Not anymore. How do you create loyal contributors? How do you increase repeat donations? How do you set up a referral engine for giving? Every organization is a little different but if you can Answer these questions for your nonprofit and you’re half way there. Keep reading for the other half.
2. There’s a nonprofit overseas needs more help than yours does.
The worldwide need for nonprofits is much more apparent. We communicate worldwide in real time now, problems on the other side of the world are now our problems too. As we learned with “Kony 2012”, within a couple clicks (or Retweets) I can see what some of the most important issues are today. And yes, we’re not always right in our first impression and sometimes we support organizations which later we regret (insert Kony 2012 into this category).
In the future we’re going to be exposed to the horrors of our world overseas and in the furtherest places on Earth from where we currently reside. Geography doesn’t matter. When humans need help on the other side of the world wallets begin opening and all those charity dollars that went to the local chapter of the Lions club all of a sudden left the city, province and country.
Solution: Make an emotion connection with the problem you’re solving and the intended audience. The only reason donor dollars are going out of country is that there is a major perceived(real or fake) need for aid in other parts of the world. Rarely do local nonprofits make a compelling case as to why you should donate to your local food bank versus feeding children in a third world country. Find peoples heart strings and gently tug on them. First and foremost we Canadians need to ensure the wellbeing of our people so that in the future we can help other areas of the world.
3. We’re all looking for something to believe in and your organization isn’t doing it for me anymore.
As countries develop and generations get older, people look for ways to feel fulfilled, a purpose per se. This is getting increasingly more difficult. But more and more people are looking for alternative ways to get that rush in the bottom of their stomachs. That moment when you realize you’ve actually changed someones’ life for the better. Volunteering for an organization is one way to achieve this feeling.
Our world isn’t about to get less confusing (quite the opposite actually) and “giving back” is still an easy way to get that feeling that you’re putting a dent in the universe. With the decline of traditional spiritual/religious paths, the Y Generation and Millennials need a new outlet to find their own spirituality, a feeling found through serving others. But we’re not loyal to a fault. If your mission is getting stale, if your strategy has never evolved, if you’re behind on technology, you’re giving people a great reason to check out your competition.
Nobody wants to board a ship that’s sailing nowhere.
Solution: Define (or redefine) your why. The reason your nonprofit exists. Develop the model of how you’re going to scale the impact you’re creating. Remember, a nonprofits ‘brand’ isn’t the logo or the advertising, or the website, the ‘brand’ is what the organization has done. Events ran, program put on, people affected. If you want a forward thinking brand set a BHAG, empower your people, try new initiatives, acquire feedback, and constantly improve upon last quarters results. Simple as that.