Building a successful nonprofit is hard, especially if you don’t have a roadmap. I know firsthand from my days on the Board of a new nonprofit. I had nonprofit experience in larger organizations so I knew what one looked like from the inside, but I saw so many things that needed to be done. I Googled “start a nonprofit” and got plenty of articles on the paperwork. But after the 501(c)3, there wasn’t much help. So I began researching the reasons nonprofits fail in the first year. I figured that was a problem to tackle so we weren’t just another statistic. What came out of my research and talking to other Founders was my book, I Have My 501(c)3! Now What?!? Your Blueprint to Starting Your Nonprofit Without Being the Sole Funder. As I talked more to Founders and mentored them, I’ve found it wasn’t enough. That’s why I created the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework to help Founders put together the pieces that create a successful nonprofit- one that covers costs and builds infrastructure. This framework governs everything I do in my business. And there are three pillars to the frameworks. Let’s dive in.
Pillar 1 of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework: Infrastructure
So the infrastructure pillar that’s pillar one, and it sets your nonprofit up for funding by providing the infrastructure funders, which are individuals, corporations, and grantors, are looking for. This helps you go from not knowing what to do to an established foundation. It helps you go from feeling lost and confused to determined because you now have a plan.
The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of money, often less than $500 to do these things. It takes time and elbow grease, but not a lot of funds, especially since I share with you resources that are free or discounted for nonprofits. The framework is broken up into three smaller areas.
We have management, policies and procedures, and fundraising foundations. So let’s talk a little bit more about those three smaller areas. We’ll start off with management.
Management Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
Management gives you direction and helps you feel self-assured. Things we cover in the management area are the four steps to accomplish in management.
- You’re going to build your Board. You need help and they will be your first or almost first donor.
- Create your Five-Year Strategic Plan. You need to get very clear on who you are and where you want to go. The five-year strategic plan is the roadmap for steering the organization. I know that there is a movement to get your business plan together. There has been a movement for probably 20 years now that nonprofits are businesses. So you should be treating them like a business. And I think that’s where the business plan has grown from. But the thing is the business plan isn’t necessary. A strategic plan has similar information and is a requested document by funders. In all my years in nonprofit work, I’ve only heard of a business plan requested once by a bank when an established organization wanted to purchase a building. And of course, they wanted to get a loan to do this, but once the bank took a look at the strategic plan, they accepted it and approved the loan. It really wasn’t a problem.
- Create your One-YearTactical Plan and Operating Budget. This will come from your Strategic Plan. Your One-Year Tactical Plan will lay the to-do out for the year to accomplish. So you are moving forward. If you are going to do all this good in the world, you have to figure out how to fund it. So you need a one-year operating budget to see how much you will need to raise and if it’s realistic. Sometimes you’re going to have to adjust that budget so that you are being realistic about how much you’re going to be able to do in the first year.
- Next, we have Program Development. You’re going to create your signature program on paper with a budget. A signature program is a program you are going to be known for in the community. It is also deeply rooted in your mission, and it is the absolute first program you are going to deliver. You don’t have to have a program the first year, but getting one on paper will help you think through the program and know how much money you will need to raise before you start the process. I do offer a template that creates a program with 10 common grant questions to help you get grant-ready.
Policies and Procedures Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
Let’s move on to policies and procedures. So while policies and procedures are the least sexy thing I can talk about, we have to do things that aren’t fun. We start with templates, samples, and curated articles of the policies and procedures the IRS form nine 90 asks for. So why do we start there? Well, we have to start somewhere, and keeping you in compliance with the IRS is a very good place to start. We then move to the policies and procedures that are needed to run your nonprofit at your stage and the policies and procedures you need in place before you ever take a donation.
Fundraising Foundations Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
This leads me to fundraising foundations. Fundraising foundations are the things that have to be done before you ever raise a dollar. They provide credibility or are simply something that has to be done so you aren’t scrambling when it comes up during the first donation.
Website and Social Media
They will include your website and social media. Websites and social media are things that give you instant credibility. They help establish you as a legitimate business.
Next, we have the fundraising essentials. These are things that you need in place to get the very first donation. They will include a payment processor. So who will process credit cards and online payments? You’ll need to sign up and submit your information. And this may take time depending on who you choose. When you consider donors will give 35% more online than through any other method, you really need to have this in place. It’s going to pay dividends.
The next thing you need is a donation page. You’ll need a page on your website where people can donate. If you send people to your website, you want them to be able to take action right then.
Email Service Provider
Next, we have the email service provider. This is where you will begin collecting email addresses of potential donors and actual donors. This is so important because growing that donor base now is going to be important moving forward. In case you don’t know an email service provider is a separate entity that does emails. MailerLite, MailChimp, and Constant Contact are some popular examples.
Moving on to accounting software, you may set this up in the management section, but if you don’t then you must have one by the time you get to this pillar, accounting software is going to help you with your books.
Last, is your donor database. This is important. You need to start capturing your donor information from day one because your donor database is where your money is going to be. So start now. The donor database is where your donor information will be housed. And most nonprofits start out with an Excel spreadsheet, but there are other options.
Pillar 2 of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework: Time Management
This pillar helps you get all the to-do’s done. You go from too many to-dos to having the time to get the right stuff done and make an impact. It helps you go from feeling paralyzed to knocking out your to-do’s and getting things off your plate. There are three areas in the time management pillar, they are consistency. This includes the routines and checklists needed to get the recurring things done. Next is intentionality. This area is about the two dues that keep you deliberate in your actions. And third is focus. And it’s about paying attention to the things that move your organization forward. It also means not paying attention to those things that are just keeping you spinning your wheels.
How do we accomplish the three areas? We build strategies that help you be consistent, intentional, and focused on the right things. And we do that through checklists, templates, samples, and time management concepts.
Pillar 3 of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework: Fundraising Basics
This is different from the fundraising foundations. It is actually where we get into the nitty-gritty of fundraising. It gives you the fundamentals of fundraising. You go from funding woes to bringing in consistent funding. If you are feeling clueless about where your funding will come from, then this pillar is for you. As you work through the fundraising pillar, you’ll become excited about your organization’s future and reignite your passion to serve. There are three smaller areas in this pillar.
Know Your Donor Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
The first area is Know Your Donor. This is so important because if you don’t know who your donors are, you can’t find them, attract them, and talk to them. And one of the ways that we do this is through the ideal donor. Now, these are the people who are most likely to give to your cause. You will focus on them after you’ve asked friends and family. If you’ve been in my world at all, you know, the very first thing I tell you to do is to ask your friends and family and have your Board do the same. These people will be loyal to you. The ideal donor is looking for people loyal to your cause. That’s a very big distinction, but you’ve got to start from within before you can work out.
Know Your Strategy Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
Knowing your strategy is the second thing. What activities will your organization create to raise money? Now, this area is also where we talk about different types of fundraisers. In case you were wondering, events are only one type of fundraising activity. There are thousands of activities. Part of knowing your strategy is knowing what activities are right for your donors and the stage of your organization.
Know Your Plan Area of the Build a Successful Nonprofit Framework
A fundraising plan is needed here. A fundraising plan will help you raise more money with less effort. We are going deeper with fundraising plans in future blog posts this year.
Let’s talk about how the framework solves the problems of lack of infrastructure and lack of funding.
How the Framework Solves the Problems of Lack of Infrastructure and Lack of Funding
The framework builds the foundation of the organization and I hope you can see how the framework helps you build a stable and sustainable nonprofit. The pieces that you put in place get you clear on what your organization is, who it serves, how it serves, the problem it solves, and how it makes an impact.
It is able to stand among other organizations and confidently proclaim its existence. It builds the roots that will help it grow. The framework builds the foundation of fundraising. These steps in the framework we’re deliberately selected to build the things you need to fundraise well. It gives you the best path to get started raising funds.
Last, the framework allows you to get things done by focusing on the things that build the foundation of your nonprofit. You can be intentional about what you complete and know you are moving your nonprofit forward. This gives you more time to do other things like spending more time with your friends and family.
I have a free download for you. Download A Founder’s Guide to Building a Nonprofit Without Being the Sole Funder and work through the infrastructure pillar of the framework. This download only deals with the infrastructure pillar so you’re going to be able to focus just on those things.