As I was replying to some very interesting questions from a friend that runs another blog (a REAL blog, one that posts every day!) I found myself compiling some pieces of advice for others in the nonprofit sector. Hope you find these four to be valuable. If so, drop me a line in the comments…
Be very specific about what you want to accomplish (your mission), and focus on it obsessively. You will be approached with opportunities that look like shining objects. Evaluate them vs. your mission: if it’s not a good match, feel empowered to say NO to them. Otherwise you will find yourself down the road wondering why on earth you are doing X or Y program.
As part of your efforts to focus, consider in a selfless way if the mission you wish to accomplish may be best served by an existing group. Feel confident enough to approach others with the thought of joining their ranks, for the greater good, bringing your focus and passion to a platform that may help you bring it to another level. Alternatively, consider fiscal sponsorship as a mechanism to bring your mission to life, without taking on the complexities underlying running a full-on 501(c)(3) organization.
When it comes to funding, you need to think about it. There’s no getting around it. You need to balance the passion that drives your mission and makes you wake up every day, ready to take on the world, with the business savvy to know that you need financial support to keep that effort going for as long as it’s needed (which in the case of diabetes nonprofits, seems like it’s going to be a while!)
Make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket, whether it is a corporate sponsor, a big foundation, or a donor. You need to strategically diversify the sources of funding for your work.
Pay close attention to the signals around you. The signals may come in the form of trends in your sector (some of the things I described earlier), and outside of your space (the direction of the economy, government policies, national or global statistics, how a particular category of companies is performing, etc.) These will help shape your strategy and help make sure that the approaches you take to keep your mission going strong are consistent with the realities that surround you.
Be willing to let go. It’s very easy to become attached to things you used to do, or the way you used to do them. Once you focus, diversify, and listen, it follows that things will change: you will find there are things you need to stop doing because they are outside of your focus (mission), things you may have to stop doing because you cannot afford them (funding), and things that it makes no more sense to do (or to do the same way) because the conditions that existed when you first started doing them have chanted (listening).
Be brave and learn to let go… it will liberate you and you will be able to do better what you do best.