Part Two: Tips for Every Executive Director Starting a Nonprofit

Part Two: Tips for Every Executive Director Starting a Nonprofit

Nonprofit Startups

In part one of this series, we talked about how getting your official 501(c)3 status is only the beginning. Beth Brockling, founder and executive director of Sweet Celebrations, talked about five things every executive director can do to make running a nonprofit easier.

In part two, Beth’s going to share 5 more tips from her top 10 list for nonprofit directors. Her first five tips are all common sense suggestions about the running of your nonprofit. The next five tips in this article are her suggestions for growing your nonprofit.

6. Network.

“Networking is incredibly important to the growth and stability of any nonprofit,” Beth says. She urges executive directors to network however possible. “Time is one of your most important commodities, and you’re already short on it. So networking can feel counterintuitive when you don’t leave a networking event with a check in hand for your nonprofit, but you can’t discount the power of connecting with other people.”

From business groups with regular meetings to one-time networking events hosted by your local chamber or community group, putting your nonprofit in front of people helps you to spread awareness and ultimately accomplish the goals you’ve set for your nonprofit. “You never know who you’ll end up meeting,” Beth says. “I’ve met people who have later become volunteers, donors, supporters, and ambassadors through networking.”

“Get in front of as many groups as you can, and take every opportunity provided to present your nonprofit and explain your mission,” she encourages.

Beth urges you to give networking a try and capitalize on the opportunities. “Find those people who understand your mission and appreciate it. Then get to know them. Spend time listening and hearing what they have to say too because that’s how you form good relationships that can lead your organization to people and places you would never have connected with otherwise.”

7. A Fundraiser Isn’t The Only Way to Raise Funds.

Fundraising is most effective when you’re fundraising by committee,” Beth says with a smile. “What does that mean? It means you as the executive director have a certain skill set, and you need the help of trustworthy people who have other skill sets.”

She compared the fundraising with diversifying an investment portfolio. Because the only constant in the world is change, she recognizes that it’s best for the stability of her organization to pursue several avenues to raising the money Sweet Celebrations needs.

“Having multiple sources for our income means that if one resource were to dry up, we wouldn’t be in danger of closing our doors because we still have funds flowing in from another source.”

“Understanding the different avenues of fundraising and how to pursue those successfully is where you need your team of trustworthy people to help the most,” Beth explains. “Find someone who wants to be on your team who is willing to learn about grants and apply for them.”

Her advice is to utilize the skills of those on your team. For example, talk to your volunteer who works in sales to see if she will help recruit corporate sponsors. Ask your volunteer who is a planner if she would be willing to help organize a fundraising event.

Take the time to get to know those who are offering their help. Understand their strengths and yours, and then use the strengths of those around you in a way that makes the most sense.

8. Use Social Media As a Tool to Connect.

Social media is a powerful tool. The creation and adoption of social media as a means to interact and connect has changed our society in many ways, including how we approach activism and advocacy.

“Social media has helped my organization to spread our message, reach and recruit volunteers, and more,” Beth says of Sweet Celebrations’ social media efforts. “Not everyone has time to volunteer. But everyone on social media has the ability to impact an organization like mine just by sharing, liking, or commenting a post.”

Beth has successfully led Sweet Celebrations in several social media competitions to secure charitable donations from large businesses. When asked how she built her following, she says:

“Really, we didn’t follow a strategy. But we had several things working for us. Something that helped quite a bit is that Sweet Celebrations already had real-life friends before launch. Those friends were and still are passionate about its success, and they are on board with spreading our message on social media. Additionally, we branded our nonprofit with a logo, and we focused on keeping the message clear and the voice consistent through our online presence.”

With several social media brand ambassadors on board, Beth and her volunteers reached more people who could see with their own eyes the impact Sweet Celebrations has on children, teens, and their families living in homeless shelters. “A picture really is worth a thousand words, and a picture of a child or teen tearing up as he or she blows out birthday candles for the very first time in their life says it all.”

Her advice to those starting a nonprofit: “Recruit others to help your organization reach a broader audience. Ask volunteers to share and comment and like when they can. And give them something worthwhile to share. Show the heart of what you’re doing, and do so with a credibility and consistency.”

9. Be Credible.

“Credibility builds trust, and the trust of your community will open doors,” Beth says. “You have to be worthy of that trust, though.” She talks about ways any 501(c)3 can gain credibility and keep it.

“If you make a commitment, honor it,” she urges. “Help others where you can, especially the businesses and individuals supporting you. If you can connect people who can benefit from a collaboration, take a moment to make that a priority.”

She also reminds us that part of being credible is being honest and as transparent as possible. “Don’t fudge your numbers to round up or down to suit your purpose, for example. Be precise.”

10. Develop Yourself and Your Volunteers.

Part of being a great leader is recognizing the potential in those around you and helping them to develop that potential.

“By helping your team to develop their potential, you’re strengthening your organization and creating the stability every nonprofit needs to grow.”

The first step is to understand that not every volunteer is meant to be a leader, and that’s a good thing. Imagine if every one of your volunteers was in charge simultaneously. That wouldn’t work out well. Instead, keep in mind that you need leaders and helpers and doers. You need the quiet, observant introvert who is best able to offer suggestions for improvements. You need the hard worker who will take the initiative to get things done.

If you’d like to see what Sweet Celebrations is up to, check them out on Facebook.

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