Thinking of starting a nonprofit organization in 2018? Or looking to strengthen your impact and your team? Justin Miller, CEO and Founder of CARE for AIDS suggests looking at your nonprofit through a for-profit lens.
In a recent podcast with Brandon Smith, The Workplace Therapist, Justin shared his successes and his missteps in forming CARE for AIDS over the last ten years. He acknowledges that most entrepreneurs and advocates who start an organization are so passionate about a particular issue that they sometimes overlook lessons learned from the business world.
Here are some of Justin’s tips for building a strong organization (and a strong team) based on solid business principles:
Be present and listen to the needs of your customers
Don’t insert your beliefs and your actions into a situation based on what you think they need. It is important to look beyond material possessions and understand the best way to provide true value. Sometimes the best opportunities lie in the gap between existing services.
Develop a pilot prototype and test it
Even if you understand the need, the best way to service that need can be complicated. A process to select one new venture over another may disrupt the current community system in certain cultures, creating dissension and distrust within the community.
Take it personally
It can be easy, and sometimes necessary, to pass along a task to another person. But doing what you say you will do in a timely manner goes a long way in establishing trust. Many nonprofit issues involve life, health, and death, so it is extremely personal.
Take care of yourself and your team by setting boundaries
Staff retention is a constant concern. Since so many issues involved with nonprofit organizations involve life, health, and death, it is common for people to work until they exhaust themselves. It’s okay to say no, even for leaders.
Set performance expectations for your team
Yes, many people who work for a nonprofit are willing to do so for less pay than they can get in the private marketplace. They are invested emotionally and some of them give too much (see tip #4). It’s okay to insist on accountability. Setting expectations at the beginning of a relationship can alleviate misunderstandings and hard feelings down the road.
Build a strong board of directors
You can’t do everything. Tap into the networks and talents of board members who share your passion. Many people just need to be asked to serve, but be sure to continually expand your circle of influence to avoid donor fatigue and board burnout.
In the nonprofit space, you see the best side of humanity and the worst side of humanity. The emotional toil can tear down the best of intentions. Running a nonprofit organization with solid business principles can bring positive returns and benefit to all stakeholders, which is a win-win for everyone.