Phoenix is known as an easy place to start a business; the same can be said about starting a non-profit. There are tens of thousands of them here in Arizona. But few are successful, if you define success as longevity, well-known and respected, and having the resources to reach and help large numbers of their constituents. While your non-profit may never reach the heights of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix or Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scouts, who are among the most successful such chapters nationwide, there are at least three qualities that a non-profit should have to achieve its philanthropic goals.
- LEADERSHIP is the most important strength of a successful non-profit. Obviously, an Executive Director should have a vision and be passionate about his/her cause. That is how most non-profits get started. But to have long-term success, a non-profit also needs leadership (this includes the Director and the Board), who knows how to read a financial statement. Often the Founder, also, needs to know when to step aside in favor of someone new, who has the energy, network or resources to take it to the next level. Some groups make the mistake of turning too drastically to someone who is good at book-keeping, but does not have a passion for the cause. Also, some charities aim for a large number of board members, instead of a few dedicated and talented ones. It is hard to find people, who can be both muses and effective program managers; but it is a goal to pursue.
- MARKETING TO EMERGING MARKETS is critical to long-term success. A charity may start with a very specific target of people to service (e.g., a particular disability or interest like helping the homeless). But they will be sustained by the rest of the population, which is not afflicted. Non-profits have to be as knowledgeable about changing demographics, characteristics of new generations, and how to communicate effectively (e.g., minority publications, social media, etc.) with these groups, who will be the majority of future sponsors and donors, as businesses need to be.
- ASSET MANAGEMENT has a negative connotation because of a few greedy realtors or corrupt politicians. But it is an important concept for non-profits to understand and master. Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki warns his readers that the houses they buy are liabilities, not assets. Charities, sometimes jump too quickly into getting big buildings, that they initially cannot afford. With the availability of co-op spaces and affordable rental offices, it is beneficial to try these until you find and can afford the right permanent location. Like in any other aspect of real estate, location is important. Consideration should be given to a venue that can, ultimately, become a valuable asset for the organization.
Non-profits are not driven by the bottom line. However, to be able to help as many people as possible, you do not need to repeal and replace everything you believe; but you have to understand how to tweak what you do to maximize your sustainability.
Hero image by http://nyphotographic.com/