pexels-photo-1036641It can be hard to define what makes a nonprofit successful. Generally, when we talk about nonprofit success, we mean those organisations that have built a strong foundation that allows them to host effective programs, and, that has developed both community connections and operating reserves that enable them to grow and sustain their operations in the long term.

When we look at what makes these types of organisations tick, we find that they have the following characteristics in common.

Effective NFPs Build Communities and Grow with Them

NFPs that are successful in the long term realise that they are not an island unto themselves. They recognise the need for community involvement to create lasting change. Rather than competing with others, they share their time, talent, and other resources to develop networks of allies. They convert their volunteers from simple supporters to true believers who spread their message and actively work to support the NFP and its mission through advocacy.

When nonprofits build connections with third parties, they don’t just cooperate and collaborate. They form meaningful relationships and forge alliances with others to provide mutual aid and benefit to one another. Essentially, the most effective nonprofits create their own support community and help the members to grow right along with the organisation.

Growing NFPs Recognise the Connection Between Service and Advocacy

Successful nonprofits quickly realise that all their hard work alone is not enough to create genuine, lasting change. They recognise the systemic factors that have led to the problems that their NFP wants to tackle.

They also realise that in addition to the public services that they provide through their programs, they must become advocates, and work to raise awareness in the public eye. They work to change public opinion and government laws that contribute to the large-scale factors and behaviours that contribute to need for their cause to exist.

Creative NFPs Focus on Adaptation

Growing, innovative organisations are never satisfied with the status quo, whether it’s in the for-profit or nonprofit sector. The best NFPs are continually testing, modifying and adapting their approaches, practices and policies to incrementally, and constantly, improve their results and generate increasing amounts of positive change in their communities.

Strong NFPs Create Sustainable Leadership Teams

Nonprofits that thrive don’t skimp on professional development. They invest the time, energy and money necessary to attract top talent, train their people and help individuals at every level to develop their leadership skills through practical experience and development courses.

Rather than concentrating the decision making at the top, NFPs share their leadership and clear a path for others at every level so that there is a “deep bench” of capable, trained individuals that the nonprofit can call upon to lead change in both the organisation and community at large.

What about your nonprofit? Does your NFP recognise the connection between advocacy and effective service programs? Are you structured in such a way that you support creative thinking and taking risks to improve your outcomes? Have you built a support community that is growing at the same level as your organisation? Does your nonprofit actively engage in succession planning, and do you have procedures and policies in place to develop your organisation’s leadership team?

If your organisation isn’t growing at the level that you and the rest of your board would like to see, you could turn things around by focusing on what steps your NFP needs to take to excel in all four of these core areas.