Dec 25, 2009

What Non Profits can do

The non profit sector is filled with dedicated people trying to make a difference in their communities, and their world. It is a group of people who have a true passion and calling that they want to see to fruition. Unfortunately, many non profits lose sight of the reality of this world and run out of funding, people or resources. What can non profits do better? They can give better service.

Non profits are in their business to make some sort of positive change, but they often forget that many others do not have that same inner fire that drives organizations throughout the different challenges they face. Volunteers and donors need to be shown that their time and money is making a palatable difference or they will soon be closing up their pocketbooks or be too busy to show up.

The main way that a non profit can ensure long term health is to show what it is doing in the same manner that for profit organizations do. They need to be transparent, visible and easily accessible. The public needs to see a clear line between the non profits goals and accomplishments and the public's participation. One way to do this is through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Non profits should not stop at social media. They should have face time with the public as well. Why is it that every festival, concert, or street show has corporate sponsorships? For profit organizations know that if you want to be profitable over the long run you must be ubiquitous. Non profits need to increase their public face with representatives at those festivals, concerts, and street shows. They also need to be in areas and activities that are not directly involved with their cause. Non profits need to reach out to a broader audience of support.

Another major step in non profit success is branding and trustworthiness. Oftentimes I am struck by the sheer amount of organizations in the Seattle area that are doing good work, but I only heard of them because I stumbled upon them in a very advanced web search. Organizations that are hard to find and hard to learn about do not have sustainability. People need to think of the cause and think of the brand. Some non profits have reached the status of instant recognition over years of effort. The Salvation Army or United Way are two examples of this, but who has heard of the dozens of partners that do the actual work of these two giants of philanthropy?

Branding is not simply a catch phrase or and advertising pitch; it is a unified and consistent message, iconography and simplicity. A non profit in order to compete and be sustainable has to establish itself in the minds of its potential volunteers and donors. The simpler the better.

Lastly, trustworthiness is brought about by consistency in message, objectives and transparency in the results and the means of execution. People will not give their time or money to an organization that is disorganized, spread in too many directions, or elusive about their financial situation whether in income or debits.

Simplification, consistency, and transparency are the key ingredients to a successful non profit. The good news is that Americans are giving more to charity year after year. The problem is that the charities in which they give are becoming more focused. People use to give small amounts to numerous charities and now they are giving larger amounts to a chosen few. If a non profit wants to be successful, they have to be part of that chosen few.

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