5 Tips for Nonprofits

Engaging the Whole Organization to Take on Society’s Challenges: Violence.  Poverty.  Domestic abuse.  Illiteracy. Homelessness.

 As these critical issues continue to affect society, it is largely the role of nonprofit organizations to find innovative, workable solutions. But how can nonprofits effectively do their work in today’s under-resourced environment that undermines their ability to  grow and succeed?

At the Kellogg School of Management we believe that today’s  business leaders must develop a strategy that crosses every business function – marketing, sales, operations, human capital, etc. – to grow and scale the organization. The same is true for the nonprofit sector; growth and success come as a result of engaging the whole organization.  Below are five strategies to help nonprofits grow and succeed in their mission.

1. Effectively engage your board. As key leaders of the organization, board members need to be engaged in the work of your organization and its vision for the future.  “Mission moments” can connect board members to the real work of the organization beyond the administrative matters that usually occupy board agendas.  Scheduling a board meeting at a client site, hearing directly from recipients of your services, and volunteering on-site are all ways that board members can deepen their focus on and appreciation for the organization’s mission.

2. Look for collaboration opportunities. Today’s problems are complex and often require the collaborative efforts of multiple organizations working together to create innovative solutions. To tap this energy and expertise, explore relationships with organizations that provide complementary services to yours. Upstream and downstream partnerships can increase overall impact.

3. Invest in professional development for your leaders. To engage in the hard work of creating innovative solutions to complex problems your team needs to be supported. One important way is by providing them with resources and training to develop their leadership and management skills, which will pay off with leadership today—and even greater impact within the sector tomorrow. Kellogg’s Center for Nonprofit Managementand other providers offer a wide range of learning opportunities at a variety of price points.

4. Strategically invest in infrastructure. As Kellogg Accounting Professor Marian Powers says, “Organizations cannot shrink to greatness.” However, investments in infrastructure are often difficult for nonprofits to sustain. To grow and succeed, leaders must make those investments and enable the mission to flourish.

5. Focus on your impact not your outputs. Much has been said about impact in today’s world. Increasingly donors and other stakeholders are supporting those organizations that quantify their impact and concretely illustrate the difference they are making in the lives of their clients. Measure what matters and be able to articulate the results to internal and external stakeholders.

To take on the challenges facing society today, nonprofit organizations must be able to grow and scale. By engaging the entire organization and focusing leadership and resources, nonprofit leaders can pave the way to reaching successful outcomes for the benefit of all.

Liz Livingston Howard
About the author: 

Liz Livingston Howard is the Director of Nonprofit Executive Education at Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management in Chicago.  She has served in Associate Director and Associate Dean positions for Kellogg.  Liz earned her BA from Northwestern and her MBA from Kellogg.  Follow her on LinkedIn.