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Ask Tom: We’re Just Stuck As A Nonprofit

We received this recently: “We’re just stuck. The numbers aren’t growing, yet people tell us they love what we do. I’m not sure how to move us forward.

First, you’re not uncommon in feeling stuck and not knowing how to move your organization forward. This is really about nonprofit strategy, communication, and accountability. Let’s get you unstuck and moving.

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Where are you heading?

The first issue to address is vision/direction. That is, what is your nonprofit strategy? You must ensure you, your board, and your staff has a vision for where the nonprofit / ministry is going.

Way too often, this is not the case. The Founder has a vision, but it has not been clearly defined and communicated. Other times, the vision is esoteric and difficult to understand.

I’m a big fan of the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) process and how it describes an organization’s future state. This is most succinctly demonstrated in a 10-year target, 3-year picture, and a 1-year plan.

The 10-year target is simply a sentence describing what the organization will look like in 10 years. The 3-year picture is 10-20 bullets that describe what your organization will look like in 3 years. Finally, the 1-year plan has specific details about the predicted success at the end of the year.

No matter how you do it, create a one page, concise, so easy anyone can get it document outlining where you are going.

How do I get everyone on board?

Communication is key. Have you heard the Rule of 7? It takes a consumer seven times hearing a message before responding.

You are communicating an important message. Don’t hold an all-staff meeting and call it a day, or your impact will be minimal.

Studies on the mere-exposure effect have found that the effect reaches a maximum between 10 and 20 exposures. That may feel like a lot of repeating, but do it. Not everyone will get it right away.

  • Create an internal communication plan.
  • Hold that all staff meeting, include a well-designed one-pager the emphasizes vital points.
  • In key leadership meetings, take opportunities to reinforce your directional vision when decisions lead there.
  • Keep your staff updated as you implement the plan. It’s not a “one and done” situation.

Now, don’t forget to communicate and get buy-in from your board. That is more than the board voting yes. Instead, get board input and tweak your plan so that they are excited with you about the plan. Board members, as excited advocates, are highly effective in a nonprofit’s growth pattern.

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How to get moving?

Live in a 90-day world. Every 90-days, establish the big rocks that must get done and hold someone accountable for each of those rocks.

Measure. The only way to predict future success is to start measuring the right things. Pick key organizational health metrics and report on them weekly. Ensure one person is accountable for achieving the metric goal.

There’s no room for people who are not excited about your vision. You need a team made up of 100% onboard people. Start conversations now for anyone who is not pulling their weight. Then move forward and coach up or out. Don’t be slowed down by the wrong person in the right seat.

I need help to figure this out?

You are not alone. We hear you. This is where investing in a top-quality nonprofit strategy consultant is a golden opportunity.

First, know how to interview potential consultants. Then understand there are many options when it comes to how to structure an engagement.

Lastly, here are some listed providers from our directory.

What do you think?

Have you felt stuck, unable to grow your nonprofit? What did that look like? How did you get past it?

Leave us a comment

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