The Core Elements of a Successful Nonprofit

It didn’t take me long in my first nonprofit to discover that I felt extremely fragmented trying to do my job.  How in the world was I going to handle all the essential aspects of nonprofit management when I was the only staff person?  I sat at my desk, one day, my head in my hands, at a loss to know what to tackle first. But as I began to really think about all the essential components of my job, I realized I could narrow them down to six basic elements.  I knew if ignored any one of them it could create problems to the point where the nonprofit might eventually cease to be effective, or even cease to exist.  Now I just needed to figure out how to incorporate volunteers into each element to get things done. And that started my journey toward development of the core elements philosophy of nonprofit

Should Board Training be a Requirement?

The two most frequently identified issues hindering a nonprofit’s efforts to build capacity and sustainability are:

  • An ineffective board of directors
  • Lack of on-going strategic planning
How did I come to that conclusion?  After working with hundreds of nonprofits, I must confess that identification of these two issues occurs when a nonprofit comes to me and says something like this, “We need help increasing our fundraising,” or “We have a problem recruiting board members.”  And I can guarantee that what they think is the problem (lack of money or board members) is NOT the problem.  At the heart of 99% of any nonprofit’s difficulties are the two issues I mentioned in the first paragraph. If a board doesn’t understand their roles and responsibilities, and if there is no on-going strategic planning process, I know they won’t be able to raise enough money and they won’t be able to recruit board members. So let’s

Academic Purity vs. Practical Reality

I love discussing new and exciting approaches to serving communities within the nonprofit sector.  But I also get frustrated sometimes that too often there is such a huge gap between theory and practical reality. Two discussions that appear with frequency in several LinkedIn discussion groups are related to strategic planning processes and board governance.  There also appear to be two very divergent approaches to both topics: academic and practical.  Although not usually verbalized that way, for the reader it can be apparent. The academic approaches to board governance and strategic planning are based on the premises that there are many models, approaches, processes and essential research.  The inference?  Lots of time, money and knowledge are required before a nonprofit can make a decision on which to use. The practical reality approach, on the other hand, is based on the needs for simplification, shorter time frames and less cost.   And, it is up to