21 Things You Must Do To Stay Competitive In The 21st Century
We have seen in the previous article “It is a Dog Eat Dog Nonprofit World” that the romantic and idealized notion that many of us carry around that the nonprofit world is a better place to be, may be flawed. Instead of cooperation, we encounter competition; instead of collaboration we encounter self-will; and instead of dedication to mission, we find adoption of cut-throat business practices.
There are, however, many ways that a nonprofit can thrive in this environment. It means acknowledging that the resources of philanthropy are a finite amount of money. It entails a commitment to recognize opportunities and develop strategies for turning them into successful projects.
Here is a checklist of stratagems to consider.
1. Fundraise twelve months a year, not just in November and December.
2. Sponsor fundraisers that can be repeated year after year, and which people look forward to.
3. Disarm your competition by joining with them in joint ventures where you all benefit by creating a better overall charitable climate.
4. Start using some proven techniques from the commercial sector to attract and retain talented personnel.
5. Become actively involved in your professional associations, whether they are fundraising associations, or “trade” associations.
6. Be the leader in initiating a collaborative meeting of the nonprofits in your market area. Host the first meeting at your offices, and get commitments from the attendees to attend regular conferences in the future. Better the devil you know.
7. Join fundraising programs that give your organization a unique offering, and provide a needed service to your constituency.
8. Try thinking more as if you were in the commercial sector competing for people, money, sales, recognition, and providing superior customer service.
9. Upgrade your office equipment to provide the efficiencies that will allow you to save money by making everybody’s job easier.
10. Redo your website to reflect your comfort with technology.
11. Hold regular meetings with your community to get their observations about how you are doing, and their suggestions about what other things you could do.
12. Use technology to network. Join online social networks like LinkedIn and Care2.
13. Play fair with your competition, and be direct with them when you think they have not played fair with you.
14. Position your organization to develop and promote your brand.
15. Develop a short term and a long term strategic plan that includes a chapter on how you are going to survive in this new highly competitive environment for nonprofits.
16. Consider partnering with companies in the commercial sector for your mutual benefit.
17. Re-evaluate how you look at activities which might be considered unrelated to your specific mission.
18. Update your accounting program to allow you to monitor projects, programs, employees, and growth.
19. Associate your organization with good outside talent, including accounting and legal.
20. Be alert to situations which would warrant the issuing of a public service announcement for free inclusion in newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and TV.
21. Become known as a good citizen by sponsoring open meetings, adopting a section of road, or providing free services in the schools.
According to the Urban Institute, the ranks of registered nonprofits have swelled from 1.2 million to 1.4 million, up 17 percent in the last five years. Some of those new nonprofits have your organization in their sites. Additionally, with the diminution of funding from the Federal Government, nonprofits have to scramble just to stay even. Some may do so at your expense. That makes it urgent that you look at yourself as existing in a competitive world, and that you make plans to address it.