Nonprofit, that is…
One of the things that inspires me… that keeps me going when I’m feeling like everything that’s worth doing has been done… is mixing it up with social innovators. I love to hear about new ideas and new approaches. If there’s a good war story thrown in there about failure or success, then, hey – I’m all ears.
Social innovators are people who believe they will make something better through what they do. Whether it’s offering a service that helps with the daily grind, or by building a new product that could solve a social ill, social innovators are inquisitive and like to help. Help each other, help strangers, help people through their work.
These folks range from entrepreneurs, filmmakers, photographers, founders, inventors, coaches and consultants. I do encounter quite a few folks who see something they want to change and they jump in and start doing it. Sometimes they self-finance, set up their own foundation to support their work, or just get crackin’ and figure the money will sort itself out along the way.
One of the questions I get from social innovators is whether the nonprofit sector is the right place for them and if they should set up a nonprofit.
To help determine whether setting up a nonprofit is a good fit, there are two things you need to know about running a nonprofit.
- A nonprofit is governed by consensus management.
So what does that mean to you as someone who is weighing and measuring the pluses and minuses of building a nonprofit? It means time.
It takes time to get people oriented and moving in one direction. It takes time to educate potential volunteers and board members on what you’re doing and how they can help make a difference. It takes time to manage people and to actually create consensus – and yes, you have to have consensus about what consensus means in your cause.
Whether you have a board of 3 or 30, plan on significant time spent in this area – it is not “in addition” to your mission, but central to it.
- A nonprofit has an additional revenue stream that can be developed.
If you were a government organization, you would develop your tax revenues. A for-profit lives and dies by its earned revenues. You have a unique opportunity as a nonprofit to develop your contributed revenue.
Yep – that means building your fundraising capacity and skills. Whether that is grant-writing, campaigning, events, face-to-face requests – contributed revenue means the difference between staying in business and achieving your mission or folding up your cards and going home.
Setting up a nonprofit organization that is successful is as all-encompassing as setting up your own business. There is more than doing the “work” of the business. There’s also the “work” of setting up and maintaining the structure so the work can get done.
Being able to project the time needed to build and manage consensus can save you months of frustration. Knowing that – if you build your fundraising capacity early as a nonprofit, you are building a rock-solid foundation for achieving your mission – makes the difference between a hope and a plan.
Taking these two nonprofit characteristics into consideration helps to determine if the nonprofit structure is the right match for your social innovation. There are many ways you can have an impact. Setting up a nonprofit is just one.