Best Practices For Non-Profit Business Management

Most business management strategies focus on for-profit corporations. However, non-profits make up a large sector of our economy. According to the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics, the public charity part of our economy accounts for over $1 trillion in total revenue; there are close to one million public nonprofits and private foundations registered with the IRS alone!

Nonetheless, many nonprofits struggle to manage effectively. This article reviews several insights from the trenches of not for profit management.

1. Adopt data based decision-making practices

One of the most significant trends in the last several years affecting nonprofit organizations has been the increasing reliance on evidence driven decision-making.
Instead of making decisions based on hunches or past experience, managers are expected to present a factual basis for decisions in the context of a rigorous analysis.

Nonprofit managers can apply the same techniques to ascertain what works and what does not work. Increasingly, the hurdle for quality decision-making is rising and therefore reliance on conjecture and theory is being systematically replaced by empirical data to justify decisions.

2. Deploy technology intelligently

Recent developments in Internet and phone conference technology are making it increasingly easy for nonprofit organizations to save on travel costs and increase coordination. Desktop sharing applications are becoming easier to use and allow nonprofit managers to instantly create virtual meetings across geographically dispersed teams.

In addition free conference call companies are allowing nonprofit organizations to save on their phone conference bills and create better team dynamics to facilitate coordination with external nonprofit organizations.

3. Keep focused

The most effective nonprofit organizations are ones that stay clearly focused on their mission and do not allow their staff and leadership to get enmeshed in peripheral goals. Most nonprofit organizations operate under substantial resource limitations. Tackling three goals with 100% effort will generally yield superior results compared to going after six goals at 50% effort.

4. Grow your network

The most successful nonprofit leaders create networks of supporters who share their values and goals. While the term networking frequently gets a bad rap, the simple fact is that these networks can provide more than merely financial assistance. Crucially, associations also provide the emotional support which is so critical to maintaining energy amongst leaders and volunteers.

5. Attend conferences

Many nonprofit organizations believe that attendance at conferences is the domain of for-profit companies. While that may be true in some situations, many successful nonprofit organizations have developed a real advantage through mastering the art of networking and lobbying in the conference arena.

Whether to arrange desired reforms in public policy or the support of public figures, conferencing can be an effective means for nonprofit organizations to accelerate traction. Indeed, it is important to educate policy makers on the issues that impact your non-profit and the conference environment is an ideal way to do this face to face.

6. Keep fund-raising focused

Most of the nonprofit organizations that have grown dramatically in the past 20 years or so have done so by focusing their development efforts on a single type of funding source. The strategy typically employed requires developing efforts and messaging designed for the needs of their primary funding source.

Not only is this technique generally more effective than the shotgun method, it enables deeper relationships between the funding channel and the nonprofit. And don't just rely on email. The phone remains the most powerful tool for fund-raising; pick up the phone to reach out to your supporters!

7. Multiply through matching

Multiply your development dollars through matching amounts. Most folks know that some employers will match gifts to qualifying nonprofit organizations. Less well understood is the multiplier effect of securing promises from supporters to match the gifts of smaller contributors.

The good news in all this is that these tips are not expensive. Whether its deploying free conference call systems or starting to lobby, nonprofit organizations can improve their performance through these 7 suggestions.

Originally from the Bay Area, Bob Letterman is an ongoing participant in technology discussions involving telecommunications and free conference calling. Letterman was an early contributor to the conference phone ( industry and continues to write and speak in a variety of related forums.

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