Originally posted on Nonprofit Pro March/April 2018 Magazine: View Here

Many organizations encounter common hurdles on the path towards making a difference. Here is how to overcome a few of the most common challenges.

Nonprofits across the world are delivering real quantifiable value to the communities in which they serve. Just the other day I had the opportunity to speak with an organization that provided more than 350,000 meals and 130,000 nights of shelter to people in need in 2016 alone. Another organization VolunteerHub works with has provided over 19,000 children in need with birthday parties and lasting positive memories. Talk about impact. These organizations could not attain their mission without the support of philanthropy and volunteerism to back their vision.

Luckily for nonprofits today both philanthropy and volunteerism are on the rise. It is estimated that a little over 25% of the US population volunteers and charitable giving in 2016 was recorded at over 390 billion dollars respectively (an increase of 2.7% over 2015). Even with year over year increases in both time and financial donations nonprofit organizations today still face hurdles they must overcome to be successful.

Let’s discuss four of these challenges and rectification strategies in detail.

Standing Out Amongst a Saturated Market

The nonprofit industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States alone. Growing competition and new markets being created every day is making it harder and harder for nonprofits to stand out from the crowd. Besides competing with other organizations attempting to solve similar issues nonprofits must also compete for public attention for mission attainment. Finally, nonprofits need to appeal to both time and financial donors. Organizations cannot reach success by appealing to one group over the other.

There are many ways that nonprofits can stand out in their space. Here are a few strategies that some successful nonprofits are using to appeal to their target audience.

  1. Nonprofits are developing clear and powerful messaging (storytelling) that supports their organization’s mission, differentiators, and goals.
  2. Organizations are including key performance indicators (KPI’s) into messaging based on the impact that their audience will most resonate with.
  3. Nonprofits are providing rewards and recognition to top supporters to renew and retain the interest in the cause.
  4. Organizations are focusing on creating a social environment and digital buzz that appeals to a younger demographic.

Finding Funding to Reach Mission and Goals

One hurdle that has challenged nonprofits for many years is the ability to find enough funding to reach their mission and goals. A State of the Sector survey reported that 52% of nonprofits in the U.S. are unable to meet demand due to funding limitations. Another study, performed by CompassPoint, found that 23% of surveyed nonprofits had no plan for fundraising and 75% of nonprofit executive directors characterized their organizational fundraising efforts as insufficient. These statistics are particularly troublesome because donors today have many options pertaining to where they can invest.

Nonprofits that are the most successful in fundraising are focusing efforts on the following strategies:

  1. Enticing supporters to drive fundraising dollars through P2P (1/3 of all online donations come from peer-to-peer fundraising tactics).
  2. Making the process of donating as easy as possible for prospects by deploying online and text-to-donate features as well as traditional outbound fundraising outreach.
  3. Using giving levels to suggest gift sizes to prospects that display impact per level.
  4. Encouraging donors to provide a monthly recurring gift.
  5. Strategically developing a plan for content marketing (50% of nonprofits lack a strategy).
  6. Going into end-of-year with a fundraising plan (31% of giving happens in December).

 

Managing Volunteer and Donor Data

Another issue that many nonprofits around the world are dealing with is an ineffective donor management strategy. Nonprofits that remove the barriers that a manual volunteer and donor management process entail are often able to devote more of their staff’s time to focus on building internal and external relationships that push their program forward. Not effectively managing volunteer data and donor data can prevent an organization from analyzing trends, improving communication, and retaining supporters over-time.

Nonprofits that are the most successful in volunteer and donor management are:

  1. Investing financial resources in automated management software and solutions.
  2. Eliminating manual management processes that eat up internal staff time/engagement.
  3. Using volunteer and donor management software in conjunction with CRM for better insights.
  4. Creating detailed volunteer and donor profiles based on data and not hunches.
  5. Integrating volunteer and donor management to cross-pollinate supporters.
  6. Using software to evaluate metrics, categorize participation, and leverage activity.

 

Volunteer Recruitment

31% of nonprofits say that volunteer recruitment is a top challenge for their organizations. Finding and enticing the right volunteers to fulfill opportunities can definitely be challenging even for the most seasoned nonprofits. Factoring in low retention rates in the nonprofit space compounds the importance of overcoming recruitment related hurdles. Although the retention rate varies between states the current average in the United States is between 50% and 60%. Organizations that are able to identify the best candidate for an opportunity, nurture and engage them, and convert them to a life-long supporter come out on top in the recruitment category.

Nonprofits that are the most successful in volunteer recruitment are:

  1. Providing volunteers with the resources they need to be successful in opportunity-fulfillment from the start.
  2. Providing volunteers with the training they need for continued success and growth in the future.
  3. Identifying and leveraging the strengths of each unique volunteer and skillset.
  4. Actively communicating with volunteers to address program pitfalls and optimize strengths.
  5. Getting to know their volunteer-base on a personal level to increase relatability.
  6. Thanking volunteers in a variety of ways for opportunity fulfillment.
  7. Allowing prospects to sign-up for opportunities online.

Takeaways

Nonprofits today face many challenges in the quest to make a difference. Some of these top challenges include standing out, identifying funding channels, managing supporter data, and recruiting volunteers. Organizations that address each issue in a strategic way will overcome them and reach goals.