Every nonprofit organization begins with a noble mission, sparked by inspiration that seeks positive change. Yet, in the challenging landscape of nonprofit work, even the most well-intentioned organizations can find themselves on the brink of what's often referred to as the "death spiral." This is when resources dwindle, enthusiasm wanes, and the very core of the organization's purpose seems threatened; however with strategies, insights, and a touch of innovation you can steer clear of death spiral. At Mighty Penguin, we're here to guide you, ensuring your nonprofit continues to flourish.
Define, Live, and Encourage Your Values
At the core of every successful nonprofit are well-defined values. These values serve as the compass, guiding your organization's actions and decisions. Incorporate values into training, have them framed and ornamented in the office, and make sure the mission aligns with your values. By living and encouraging these values, you create a strong organizational culture, one that resonates with both your team and your supporters. After all, shared values are the bedrock of strong, enduring staff, donors, and community partners.
Put People First
Your staff is the heartbeat of your organization. Appreciating and empowering them is not just a nice thing to do; it's a must. Recognize their hard work and dedication. Provide opportunities for growth and skill development. A motivated and appreciated team is your most valuable asset.
It Takes a Family to Run a Family
Your nonprofit is a community within a community. Nurture this 'family' by fostering a sense of belonging. Do your staff feel appreciated? Do they have opportunities for growth? Are they being celebrated for their work and being trusted to take on more responsibilities? Share your successes and challenges, involve them in decision-making, and make them feel like valued members of your extended family.
To escape the death spiral, you must have a future-focused mindset. Always place your mission at the forefront of your decisions. Every step you take, every initiative you charge, should directly serve your mission. Continuously ask yourself: "Is this helping us achieve our mission?" If the answer is 'no,' it might be time to rethink your approach.
Don't Just Rely on Donations
Think like a business. Nonprofits can and should be running a profit. Over Reliance on donations is a dangerous pitfall into the death spiral. Diversify your revenue streams. Explore social enterprises - businesses that are designed to generate revenue while fulfilling your mission. These enterprises can provide a steady financial stream that isn't solely dependent on donor generosity. Here are a few examples:
Goodwill Industries: Goodwill is known for its thrift stores, which serve as a form of social enterprise. The revenue generated from selling donated items in their stores is used to fund job training and employment placement services for individuals facing employment barriers.
The Red Cross: The American Red Cross operates a training and certification program, where they offer courses in CPR, first aid, lifeguard training, and more. The fees collected from these courses contribute to their disaster relief and humanitarian services.
Habitat for Humanity ReStores: These retail outlets sell new and gently used home improvement and building materials to the public. The proceeds are reinvested into the organization's mission of providing affordable housing.
Teach for America: While not a traditional social enterprise, Teach for America charges a fee for their training and support services for educators who work in underserved communities. This earned income helps sustain their mission of educational equity.
The Girl Scouts: Their cookie sales are a prime example of a social enterprise. The revenue generated from cookie sales funds various programs and initiatives that benefit the development of young girls.
National Public Radio (NPR): NPR offers a range of merchandise, including branded mugs, shirts, and tote bags. The sales of these items help support their public broadcasting services.
These are just a few examples of nonprofits that have successfully integrated social enterprises into their operations. Social enterprises provide an innovative way for nonprofits to diversify their revenue streams while staying true to their mission and values. Need ideas for revenue streams? Research what other nonprofits are doing. Schedule time with their development team to pick their brain in regards to applying their model to your nonprofit.
Hopefully the death spiral isn’t lurking at your door. If it is, the death spiral doesn't have to be your organization's fate. By highlighting values, putting people first, staying mission-oriented, and diversifying your revenue sources, you can confidently steer your nonprofit away from the death spiral. Remember, at Mighty Penguin, we're here to help you break free from the cycle. Has your nonprofit done strategic planning in the past 5 years? If not, it’s time! Through data gathering, research, and extensive planning we can help you come up with a plan that sets your nonprofit up for success. Reach out to the Mighty Penguin team and let's get started on your strategic planning today!