Nonprofits have always had to struggle to meet their client needs, even when economic conditions and social turmoil were much less constraining than today and they have dim prospects for the immediate future. How can mid-level nonprofits uncover growth opportunities in the present environment?
Plan Strategically: Any nonprofit board needs a core of directors and managers who are capable of identifying potential new strategic directions. The CEO must be highly conversant with changes in the mission field. He/s then needs a core of board members to assist in realistically reviewing his/h long-term insights for growth, as well as board insights developed from generative discussions. The CEO, supported by several board members, can then be the keystone for board discussions about implementing change. Should the CEO not have the requisite forward-looking knowledge, the only alternative is to try to replace the CEO, a difficult change even under the best of circumstances.
Capacity Investment: As expected, nonprofits invest their assets in maintaining and improving programs. It seems that client needs will always be there to operate and expand existing programs. But success in nonprofits and elsewhere also involves beginning to solve tomorrow’s problem today. Example: The challenges for serving the aging cohort of baby boomers is clearly showing demographic impact. Those in the field or allied fields serving this cohort need to be concerned with finding new modalities to assist the baby boomers in an efficient, effective, and humane manner. Where funding is a barrier to participate in such an effort, foundations and governmental agencies need to be aggressively tapped to fund small-scale projects, if the foundation can partner with the nonprofit. (See: https://www.snpo.org/publications/sendpdf.php?id=2024)
Impact & Evaluation: Midsized nonprofits should have the capacity to conduct a few small-scale studies every few years, if growth and development are cultural values for the organizations. Resources might come from within the nonprofit and/or from outside sources. Once a small-scale study provides evidence of impact; the nonprofit can find outside interest for more small-scale improvement, additional evaluation, and possibly some outside support.
Obviously, a small new project won’t be able to have an extensive evaluation component. However, if imperfect metrics are used in the process, the impact findings can be useful in seeking interest from other sources. (These are metrics that are anecdotal, subjective, interpretive, or qualitative. For more details see:http://bit.ly/OvF4ri)
Importance Of the Board & Management: Growth opportunities will be initiated in nonprofits, only if the board constantly asks for them, especially in the current environment. The board, overtly or indirectly, has to ask management about innovations that are taking place or can take place within the organization. Annual questions to management such as “ What do you want to do innovatively or creatively this coming year?” are mandated. When it appears an innovation can be scaled a little or an innovative person has the potential to be creative, the nonprofit board has to support this learning culture for testing.