It sounds simple, but the major test for success rests in the implementation strategies. Suffice it to say the crux of developing a non-profit is in its strategic components. In this article, three fundamental aspects of how to develop an NPO from a strategic point will be discussed. These three elements include:
- Use of strategic plans
- Recruiting the appropriate staff
- Organizational identity
The starting point of developing a non-profit is strategy formulation and its adoption. Developing a strategic plan is a formal process that involves brainstorming and input from professionals with relevant experience in the industry. Experts in the non-profit world range from grant writers, fundraisers, event planners, project managers, public relations officials just to name a few. Incorporating their knowledge about the industry in your noble idea could mean success or failure for your organization and the project at large. For example, a grant writer could help you navigate the technical aspects of writing a proposal that would otherwise see you go back and forth when you seek to raise funds for a project.
However, trudging back to the necessity of a strategic plan for the development of a non-profit, the point cannot be further belabored since strategy gives direction. With a formal plan in place, decision-making, among the different internal stakeholders, becomes easier, thus creating a conducive working environment where conflicts are avoided because each player has their responsibilities clearly stated and formally documented.
Also, strategic plans provide avenues for traceability. This includes traceability of resources, responsibilities and decision points and the resultant effect on the project. This capability creates the opportunity for customization of the program based on the evidence and desires of the executive e.g. optimization when the decision yields desirable effects and re-calibration of resources after achieving desired goals.
As policy documents, therein lies the definition of the short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives of the organization and the predefined milestones used to measure organizational performance. Veering away from the plan could alter the initial goals and plunge the entire project into uncertainty. Such compromise is considered too risky, and thus the preference of formal planning strategies to ensure decision making across the board is aligned with the organizational objectives. The clarity of the aims, goals and mission objectives and the corresponding deliverables/indicators for measuring performance come out clear when inked in a formal plan.
One could argue that developing a non-profit first requires the people, then the strategy. However, to establish a non-profit, you need a formidable team that buys into your vision and carries it through to its delivery. The teams could be two thronged: the first team to put up the structures in place using strategic plans, and the second team to implement it. Comprehensively, the team should include the executive board, professionals from the non-profit world, and the staff. All these are critical stakeholders and players in the development of a non-profit. Success or failure of a non-profit is determined by how well this team is aligned to the organization’s mission objective and the strategic plans for achieving this goal. It, therefore, follows that assembling this team needs critical consideration of their skills, values, and competencies adjudged against the task ahead. It is this team that determines how efficient the organization is run on both fronts (fundraising and transforming).
The executive arm is influential in determining the levels of motivation among the staff, and this alongside organization structure has a bearing on the organizational culture that sprouts thereafter. A good team works harmoniously despite having different tasks and responsibilities. Harmony and internal agreement are essential ingredients of efficiency since the staff, and other internal stakeholders operate as a team.
With a well thought-out strategic plan and the right team, you stand in a better position to interact with the external components located in the NPOs operating environment. External components include competitors, technology and most importantly stakeholders. The three important stakeholders to a non-profit include the industry’s regulators, donors, and the beneficiaries. Your team and strategy should be able to satisfy the needs of the external stakeholders. Positioning a non-profit to meet these stakeholders’ needs is the ultimate goal of developing a non-profit. It requires simplification of the founding principles to effortlessly communicate a shared identity subjectively among the different stakeholders: internal and external. All this is done while capitalizing on the available opportunities and repelling/dodging any threats.
To get your organization to this level, the founder’s vision of the non-profit should resonate with the staff, the donor community and the community of the target beneficiaries. These stakeholders, based on their various standpoints, might have divergent perceptions of how they relate to the organization, hence different identities. However, several strategies can be used to rally the stakeholders to independently adapt a common organizational identity based on the shared perceptions/understandings. Convincing external stakeholders towards your cause is a continuous process that should be reviewed and regularly updated by the executive. This process should be based on the changing conditions of the operating environment. Internally, the staff may be taken through capacity building and change management initiatives. For the external stakeholders, creative use of fundraising campaigns and public relations strategies could communicate the commonality in perception and rally the different stakeholders collectively behind the founder’s vision under a shared identity.
In conclusion, the first focus on how to develop a non-profit is the appreciation and utilization of formally laid out plans that define project deliverables, long-term, medium-term and short-term goals, policy guidelines and the operational strategies for meeting the organization’s mission objective. The second focus on how to develop a non-profit should be having a suitable implementing arm (executive and staff) for the entire mission. The third and overall focus on how to develop a non-profit is the integration of the external and internal stakeholders under a common identity in pursuit of the mission objective.