Barriers to Nonprofit Growth
October, 18 2022
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Organizations covet growth. Yet, growth may be the beginning of the end. Is your organization ready to capitalize on growth?
The world is in turmoil—and more than it usually seems to be—with civil unrest, global pandemics revealing with infrastructure, and fears of an unrecognizable environment, should it be any surprise that nonprofits are growing? Nonprofit organizations have been growing in the United States consistently, especially those focused on the environment or human rights with contributions increasing by 34% and 37% respectively.¹ This growth is not always a benefit, as without the proper planning nonprofits could fail to capitalize on their growth and buckle under their own weight.
Isn’t all growth good growth?
Well, yes and no. For example, if one makes more revenue than they did a year ago, that’s great, but to continue that growth they must invest into growing their organization more, which is where the problems begin. Unless the management wants the organization to stay in the same place forever, which is impossible—they either grow or fizzle out.
These problems are often symptomatic of deeper issues within the organization and, as such, can be treated before they compromise growth.
Common nonprofit growth barriers
While there will be more details later, the overarching trend is communication. A poor system of communication directly impacts every other system. COVID amplified these effects, with almost every organization now needing to (at least in part) be remote. So, while reviewing these barriers, keep communication in mind.
Coordinating More People
This is where all the problems with communication get amplified. Instead of five people, now twenty people must keep contact and correspond with one another, possibly halfway across the world. Attempting to coordinate all these people over a messaging app is futile. Furthermore, the whole organization is effectively playing an endless game of telephone. A remedy to this would be easily scheduled and joined virtual calls, official workplace guides, concrete virtual courses, and daily updates.
The nature of what metrics to use will differ from organization to organization; however, there are a plethora of tools that can track metrics automatically. Any nonprofit organization that provides learning content to their members has a need to analyze not only the popularity, but also the efficiency said content. This is where CoreAchieve excels, as it tracks all activities and offers up-to-date data on all the learners’ progress, regardless of where they are. All this data is presented in reports automatically—all one must do is interpret it.
Metrics shouldn’t just be for a target audience; they can be utilized within a nonprofit to measure the success of the team. By communicating metrics to team members allows them to grasp exactly what is expected of them.
A growth of people typically coincides with a growth of specialization. Grouping these people together can guarantee their work is at its optimal state. The refactoring of the organization into smaller, specialized groups will not only increase the quality of work, but it requires less people to communicate and eases the workload of everyone. Having every person involved in every task is not conducive to an efficient workplace.
Lack of Diversify in What is Offered
In many cases of growth, it is not enough (nor is a very stable futureproofing) to continue doing what was just being done earlier. Adding more goals and projects will increase the value proposition of an organization; therefore, increasing the opportunity for more growth. Diversity is not just about a value proposition; it may build another pillar of the organization and makes it easier to adapt in case things do go wrong. An environmental organization, for example, could develop a learning program that certifies businesses on environmentally friendly practices. A suggestion like this may have seemed a little odd pre-COVID, but post-COVID, remote learning got the boost people expected for a long time. The result being that most people have experience with, and, in many ways, expect remote learning.
Looking online is a great place to start as there are plenty of free options on platforms like CoreAchieve, so explore what can offered without committing.
Break the Future Down to Essentials
Determine what was essential to the growth and see if it can be expanded upon. What tools or functionality of tools is the organization missing out on? Are there any free versions of software that can be upgraded? If so, upgrade them—they will most likely continue their return on investment.
Don’t overdo expanding by investing into a bunch of different options that may slow the effectiveness of the organization. Focus on the current pillars and invest in one or two more. Allow the organization to breathe and not bottleneck.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any organization. With growth comes change and with change, disruptions. Treating these disruptions as an insignificant and forcing resolutions will stunt people’s growth and, thus, the organization’s growth. This goes together with breaking the future down as taking own too many differences too quick will destroy people’s time, productivity, and mood.
Building for the Future, Today
While this list is framed within the context of a growing nonprofit, the majority of these can be can addressed at any stage within the organization’s lifespan and should be. If the fountain is bad, the tower will not make it any better.
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