Every Not for Profit (NFP) organization has limitations, but thriving as a NFP organization isn’t simply about limitations and resources. Every organization, whether for profit or not, has plenty of limitations. Whether it be a shelter that needs more clothing, an educational institution that needs more grant money, or a fortune 500 business that is short on investment capital, there is always some sort of limitation. I strongly believe that social sector organizations need to spend more time concentrating on what they do have than what they don’t. What NFP organizations have that the their counterparts do not is mission. Strong mission for helping people, changing lives, or developing society. This is what you need to use are your currency. This is your blue chip for recruiting the best people and focusing the vision.
So many of the problems I personally encounter in social sector organizations stem from overreaching and underachieving. The issue here is that organizations aren’t able to focus enough to stay effective. These problems often manifest themselves into high staff turnover rates, flat results for the mission, decreased volunteerism, and ultimately decreased giving. It’s a perpetual negative loop of cause and effect. As overreaching beyond available resources fatigues staff and volunteers, turnover rates rise and the resources began to fall. This increases the overreaching as leadership often fails to respond by simplifying and instead increases the resolve to push forward to the goals. Ultimately, social sector organizations can be left depleted and run dry.
For effectiveness, leaders in the social sectors need to first come to terms with the reality of their resources. This often means serious and difficult conversations defining what is truly possible. Secondly, leaders should accept that effectiveness and excellence are key to growing the resource engine, not overreaching and underachieving. Better to do a few things well that a lot of mediocre work. Finally, be sure to seek regular feedback from your staff on the front lines of your mission and manage closely the fatigue factor. Ultimately, this will help NFP organizations thrive and be more effective at achieving their mission. Although social sector organizations may not be able to pay as much or offer some of the same benefits as corporations, they must realize and use the currency of their mission. Be sure that each employee or key volunteer is directly linked to the mission, and has plenty of resource power to accomplish it. If you get the right people aligned with your mission and feed them what resources you have, your effectiveness will continue to increase. Just keep it simple, keep it excellent, and keep it focused.