Having spent much of my career in the nonprofit sector I have seen the challenges that come with working with limited resources. If you have spent any time at all in the world of nonprofits you know that most are run with a lot of passion and not a lot of business knowledge. In fact, I have often heard employees complain when a nonprofit implements policies and practices to increase effectiveness that they are “becoming a business”. The reality is that nonprofits are a business, and a very important business at that. They are in the business of serving people, usually in populations that are typically underserved. They do this with very limited resources and dependence on employees and donors who have similar passions.
It is because of the need for passion about any given issue or population that skill and experience is often sacrificed in hiring staff for nonprofits. Most debilitating for a nonprofit in the long run is when an organization’s Executive Director is the founder who is passionate about the cause and sets out to do something about it but ends up managing the whole organization even though they don’t want to. Or when a Board of Directors hires someone to be the Executive Director that is full of passion and communicates vision and growth strategies with exuberance but is not gifted in the everyday management of operations and staff. Both of these scenarios can be detrimental to the growth of a promising organization.
An organization in this position needs some help with a bit of practical solutions. Here is a short list of just a few of the areas to address:
- Identify the strengths (and thus the weaknesses) of the Executive Director and key leaders. This is the first step in identifying where further support is needed in the daily operations and management of the staff.
- Vision, mission, and values must be considered carefully and communicated clearly so that the entire team is pushing for the same goals.
- Staff positions need to be analyzed and more closely aligned with the needs of the organization and the skill set of each employee.
- Job descriptions need to be created or revised. Staff evaluations need to become standard practice.
- Standard Operating Procedures need to be created and regularly updated.
There are more, but this is a strong start of practical, very basic steps an organization can take to put itself in a position to grow with a healthy, functioning internal structure. When an organization takes a look at its internal structure, starting with its Executive Director and key leaders, they are on the road to serving their cause in a greater capacity than they may have ever anticipated.