The Secret Sauce Of Non-Profit Success


The people who want to change the world start non-profits. Take TED Talks, for example. TED was begun back in 1984.

But it didn’t really get going until YouTube took off back in 2005. Since then, the non-profit has been churning out an endless stream of high-quality content.

Their mission?

To spread ideas that could change the world. TED is like many non-profits. It wants to bring the human community together in a way that benefits us all.

But how the heck were they so successful? And how can you emulate some of that success in your own non-profit venture? Let’s find out.


Before Starting

Despite the widespread success of nonprofits, our culture is not particularly friendly to them.

Sure, people love charity and good causes in general. But they don’t tend to like it when it’s you who wants to actually go out and do it. It’s a common problem for people wanting to start a nonprofit.

Be prepared for the reality that not everybody will be willing to get behind you.


Be Brutally Honest With Yourself

Let’s say that you want to deal with the issue of child poverty. It’s clearly a serious problem in the world, especially in places like Malawi and Eritrea.

But it’s a problem that many of the biggest nonprofits are already addressing, with mixed success. If you try to enter that niche, you’ll end up competing for funds with the big players.

And it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make any real inroads.

Instead, take a look at some of the most successful nonprofits in recent years. They rose to prominence because they carved out a new niche for themselves.

The Creative Commons is a great example. Here, a nonprofit created a platform where anybody could share their knowledge and creativity. It’s an alternative model to our present status, intellectual property laws.

And it was successful because it moved into an entirely new space, all made possible by the internet. If you want success as a nonprofit, look for new places where you can build a new brand.


Leverage Local Community Spaces

Running a nonprofit can be complicated. But the good news is that your local community has often already provided a base. Local churches and places of worship tend to be excellent hubs from which to begin your operation.

Often, community spaces will allow you to hire our rooms during the week. And because they’re complete with things like padded church chairs and PA systems, they double up nicely as a venue too.

Thus, if you have a good relationship with the owners, you can use it to organize fundraising events, seminars and so on.




Yes, even in the nonprofit space, you have to think carefully about marketing. But marketing as a nonprofit is different to marketing as a regular company.

You’re not trying to entice people to buy a particular product. You’re trying to show them how your mission coincides with their values. What does that mean in practice? Let’s say you decide to start up a nonprofit for green energy technology.

You want to dedicate yourself to developing and spreading green technology openly and freely to help the environment. The challenge for your marketing is to bridge that gap to your contributors who love the natural world.

They need to be able to see how supporting your venture is aligned with their personal environmental goals. If you can make this clear to them, you’ll develop a substantial following.


Show Donors How You’re Maximizing Impact

Nonprofits might be organizations that don’t pursue profits. But they shouldn’t be organisations without drive and focus.

Often, though, people in the nonprofit space tend to forget that they have to pursue returns, just in a different domain.

It’s important that you see your nonprofit from the perspective of your donors. Donors want to be able to see that you’re doing everything you can to maximize the impact of your activities.

If you’re not, they’ll be less likely to want to join your cause. Think of your donors as your investors. And think of them as having only a limited supply of precious capital.

Like other investors, they want to get the biggest bang for their buck. And so if your organization isn’t making waves, you’ll start hemorrhaging donors. Be honest with yourself. Does investing in your organization represent a good investment?

Lastly, it’s worth repeating what successful nonprofit leaders always say once they’ve succeeded. They all wish they’d started sooner, so don’t delay.

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