I had an interesting meeting with a client recently; a new nonprofit with a hot off the presses IRS exemption, and all the enthusiasm and excitement that brings. The 3 founding board members had set up their business entity, had been granted nonprofit status and put up a rudimentary website. Now they wanted to know what to do next. Big question.
Their nonprofit was created with the mission to provide specific industry preparation and mentorship for men and women returning to the workplace. The board members all have impressive track records of their own in this field, including an impressive number of contacts with whom they could develop and expand their network. They could then place trainees in jobs requiring specialized skills and experience. It is a great idea and they have many of the elements they will need, but had not put the pieces into a working order.
Having Paypal is not enough
The Paypal account was set up, a ‘Donate Here’ button on the website and business cards were printed.
But there was no business plan, no operational program, no nuts and bolts.
- The pool of applicants is wide, how will they be recruited and vetted; accepted or rejected?
- Who will be the trainers and mentors, and how will newer people be considered and included?
- What is the oversight program for the trainers and trainees, and how will it work?
- What will be expected from all participants in terms of communications, reporting and evaluations?
- What is it going to cost to organize everyone, do all the paperwork and who is going to do it?
These are just a few of the issues that need to be considered and organized before they can begin to implement the program that is their mission.
Great Ideas, Little Experience
The founders are smart, capable and successful in each of their professions. But none of them had any hands on experience with the real time requirements of producing the program. Their overall goal was strong, unique and innovative, but they didn’t pause to think about the mechanics of the actual work.
When we sat down to go over some of the action items for getting underway, there was a sense of shock about the amount of detail that will be required to operate. While not entirely a setback, they realized that they would not be able to really begin to gather trainees, trainers, obtain corporate approval and actually being to place people in positions until these processes were worked out.
And we never even got to fundraising………
What’s the Point?
As you organize your work, keep the day to day operations and administration front and center in your attention. It is all well and good to have a noble cause and calling, but it is really important to have the function of your organization run smoothly as well.
We have all experienced the frustration of systems that do not work well, when the information we need is insufficient or incorrect. Especially for nonprofits, it is critical to make sure you make your processes run as smoothly as possible. It is all too easy to lose the chance to turn a visitor into a donor or a donor into a former donor when they run into problems with your system.
How your work will be done is as important as the mission and goals you have. Be sure your planning includes exactly how things will work in each department: communications, bookkeeping/accounting, record keeping, data and information management. Look at your plans as an outsider would, ask the questions that someone who knows nothing about you would ask. Then figure out the answers.
If you have worked hard enough to create the concept, set up the beginnings of your nonprofit, care enough to have it work well for you, do the work needed to make your visions real.
Need some advice or suggestions? Please do give a call and let us help get you where you need to be. 310 828 6979
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