Boston CEO Wendy Foster’s 5 Nonprofit Growth Strategies


Boston CEO Wendy Foster’s 5 Nonprofit Growth Strategies

Posted October 15, 2013

Work in the nonprofit sector has always been demanding. Each of us is challenged every day to stand out in a highly competitive marketplace, maintain and grow the funding sources necessary to support our missions, appeal to new prospects, deliver our service(s) with quality, attract and retain the best employees, and respond to the increasing pressure for program outcomes. Leading your nonprofit through a period of growth is even more demanding.

As the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, I know firsthand how hard it is to maintain a flat organization in the post-recession economy let alone try to reach higher.  However, if your organization doesn’t take the time to stop and ask “What would it take for us to do more?” and consider organizational company growth strategies, I think you put your organization’s future at risk.  Starting this conversation internally can lead to new ideas, new approaches to doing things and new goals against which to get your staff aligned. Showing that your organization is serious about creating greater impact in the communities you serve can start exciting new conversations with your current donors and supporters…and lead you to new supporters who are excited about your vision.

With this in mind, it is important to ask, is your nonprofit ready to grow?

Here are 5 nonprofit growth strategies to consider:

1. Be Creative

Growth means change so experiment liberally.  Encourage your organization to invest time and money in new innovations.  Identify where results in any aspect of your work are falling short of your goal and brainstorm with your teams how to bridge the gap. Think outside the box to find new ideas for improvement.

2. Collaborate

More minds are better than one so don’t be afraid to ask for help! Good ideas can come from anywhere and you may be surprised at the insights staff from different departments can bring. The more you can collaborate across departments and enlist support from other teams, the more likely you are to succeed. Not only does it give you fresh sets of eyes but more hands to help with the load.

3. Relentlessly Prioritize

Time is our most precious resource and it is easy for our to-do lists to become overwhelming.  As a result, we have to relentlessly focus on priorities.  Make a list of the top 3 things you should be focused on in your role to meaningfully impact your organization.  Now look at your to-do list again.  Are there things on the list that don’t support your top 3?  If so, scale back on less essential activities.

4. Take Some Risks

Attempting to grow often means setting sail for uncharted territory.  You may not have all the answers as you start your journey, but that’s OK.  What’s important is to prepare yourself and your team to get out of your comfort zone and let them know that you support them regardless
of the outcome.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

With risk, comes the possibility of failure. Accept that you won’t always succeed with every new approach. The good news is that we often learn the most from the things that don’t go as planned. Trying new approaches is exciting and invigorating for organizations and remember the old adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Our missions are worth it!

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