By: Big Buzz Idea Group Staff
This month, we turn to our helpful hive-full of Big Buzz team members for some insider insights and tips that they’ve honed and compiled over years of working with nonprofits. These simple but powerful methodologies have helped numerous clients along the way, so we know they’re tried and true and can work for anyone in the business of running a nonprofit like a business.
Prepare For “The Ask”
When soliciting new Board Members, Nicole Harris advises to go in prepared for the big meeting:
A strong organization will have a solid plan when it comes to Board leader recruitment, knowing what needs to be accomplished and what it will take to get there. When recruiting individuals to serve on your Board, be prepared with “the ask” and be ready to explain what it is that you expect from them:
- Clearly defined roles for all positions of the Board.
- A set meeting schedule and expected attendance requirement.
- An onboarding/orientation for new members of the Board.
Go into “the ask” with all the right answers, and you may just get the right answer in return!
Goals Don’t Work Unless You Do
When goalsetting, Kayla Walke recommends proper planning as the key to effective execution and attaining small successes on the way to attaining big goals:
Whether it is growing attendance at monthly events or presenting your brand on online platforms, you won’t get far without proper goalsetting and planning. Setting clear goals is the easy part; it’s the execution – the process of reaching those goals – where many struggle. To stay on track, try to set small, achievable goals within the larger long-term goals. Create deadlines and check-ins, and constantly examine next steps when working towards a common goal. Find a cadence that works best for you and your organization. Proper planning means identifying and doing whatever is needed to execute in the most efficient and effective way to eventually exceed the goals that have been set.
Set your goals and a plan of action to achieve those goals. How do you make a plan? You set goals. Chicken or the egg?
Program Evaluations Are Crucial
Many organizations operate on a wash, rinse, repeat cycle, but Michelle Weber knows the value of evaluating the work you do to leverage nonprofit growth. Regular review and analysis of your programming is crucial to staying productive and efficient while removing the dead weight if a program no longer provides the funding or awareness that it once did. The time you give to this front-end planning will pay off with a wealth of knowledge to help you:
- Make a judgement about the program.
- Draw conclusions about the program.
- Provide information for organizational development.
- Tell your organization’s story.
When goals are not established properly and evaluated regularly, associations are often left spinning their wheels and feeling burnt out. Regular program evaluation coincides with your regular goalsetting and review: it will allow you to focus on what works while eliminating wasteful spending and time-suck from projects that don’t move your organization toward achieving its goals.
Calendar Management Is The Key To Better Leadership
For Executive Assistants (and those executives who don’t have an assistant), Cat Donovan gives helpful tips on keeping a balanced schedule:
The success (and sometimes the insanity level) of an Executive Director’s workday often lives within their calendar. While constantly spinning multiple plates every day, inevitably one might wabble and even fall. Calendar management can play a big role in maintaining forward momentum on the ever-growing to-do list. Whether the Executive Director is organizing their own calendar or has help from an assistant, there is a growing list of best practices when it comes to management of this critical day-to-day tool.
- The ED needs time in their day for tasks, client work and organization management. Ask if they prefer not to book meetings in the mornings or afternoons to allow for the “real work” to get done.
- Is the organization leader in back-to-back virtual meetings? Start scheduling them for 25 and 55 minutes to allow a break to get from one to the next.
- As more meetings return to in-person, you must factor in travel time on the calendar. Add buffers before and after the in-person meeting to avoid having an important meeting while driving in the car.
- Look at blocking out an entire day with no meetings. This can be adjusted as needed, including holding internal meetings but no client meetings. This creates built-in time every week dedicated to the items that have been lingering or are harder to complete.
- Are there multiple times when a meeting could occur, but a final decision hasn’t been made? Block off all the time options on the various days. Mark them in another color code in the calendar so it’s clear they are on hold. This will eliminate meetings from accidentally being overbooked.
- Share your calendar with the team. Allow others in the organization to view and even edit your calendar. This transparency can allow others to quickly update and adjust a calendar so that it remains current.
Maintain an accurate and balanced schedule and share it with team members so everyone is on the same page throughout the week. Not only will it make the day more productive and efficient, but it’ll include much-needed breaks in between.
Social Media Strategy is Essential
A social media plan is vital to meeting your online marketing goals, so Amanda Lovell recommends a clear roadmap to get your organization seen and heard:
For long-term success, you must develop a well-defined social media strategy, as it is critical for nonprofits to effectively communicate with their audience, promote their cause, and achieve their goals. A social media strategy should include goals, target audience, content themes, posting schedule and metrics to measure success.
A clear social media strategy:
- Ensures the nonprofit’s messaging is consistent, relevant and targeted to its intended audience.
- Builds brand awareness and increases engagement.
- Drives donations and support for the nonprofit’s cause.
- Helps a nonprofit stand out among peers and entice partners.
Strategize to improve and enhance your online presence and you will see results!
Unique Sponsorship Opportunities Create Visibility For Your Organization
When considering strategic partnership options for your NPO, Terri Champelli recommends taking a different angle – consider investing in other nonprofits for mutual benefit:
As a nonprofit operating during this continued unsteady financial climate, it may seem counterintuitive to sponsor another organization or event. While it may be a measured speculation, at the very least you’ll create a valuable partnership that could also potentially reap rewards for years to come:
- Brand recognition
- Attracting new fans from an existing audience
- A better understanding of your nonprofit peers and neighbors
Think of this expense as an investment in your own brand visibility and relevance. Sometimes it takes money to make money! Simply leveraging your relationships with other nonprofits can be mutually beneficial, and collaborations can also strengthen your nonprofit sector and open up new opportunities.
Sponsors Want Details on Who You Know, Not What You Do or Who You Are
When soliciting sponsors, Craig Lagowski advises that you know your numbers to ensure fewer “no-thank-you” responses from potential partners.
You know who you are and what your nonprofit is uniquely doing to make the world a better place. And you believe that if only those big corporate sponsors knew this, they’d jump at the opportunity to support such an important cause as yours.
You’ve been misinformed. There is a chance that an organization could get lucky, and a potential sponsor seeks you out because they love what you do, or that your cause aligns perfectly with theirs so they’ll desperately throw money at your NPO just for the privilege to be a part of it. But it’s more likely that these are insignificant factors in their decision-making process, and that the main objective is to connect with your audience.
Sponsors are NOT Donors. They don’t just give generously and willy-nilly to worthy causes simply because they have a charitable budget to spend; rather, they are goal-oriented business partners seeking an equitable arrangement that provides measurable benefits for THEIR organization. Gone are the days when all we had to do to land a sponsor was promise to recognize them at the Gold/Silver/Zinc Level in varying degrees of font sizes…logo inclusion on a ‘thank-you’ banner may still be a nicety but it is no longer a valid tool used to pry open a sponsor’s wallet.
If you solicit their monetary support (or their clout/name recognition, or whatever your reason for soliciting a particular sponsor), then, in exchange, they’ll expect you to provide ACCESS to your audiences (via email outreach, or at events, etc.).
It is crucial to know your audience (detailed demographics and spending data, for example) so potential sponsors can easily determine if and how to support you in a manner that provides them the greatest ROI. Otherwise, they’ll find another nonprofit that can provide demographics and access in exchange for a monetary commitment.
Implement These Best Practice Tips to See Better Results
We hope these tips in areas of best practices can be helpful to your overall organization, day-to-day management and long-term goals. Nonprofit leaders and teams are working harder now more than ever to balance all the critical pieces. Maintaining best practices in the areas mentioned above will go a long way in keeping everyone on track to the benefit of the organization and all those invested in its success.