7 Tips on Building a Successful Not for Profit


How many non-profits have you been associated with that have a dream to be bigger -- and not just a little larger in overall operation but really big? And how many non-profits have you been associated with that have actually done it?

The non-profit sector may be personally fulfilling, but it's not a snap to succeed in. The attrition rate for non-profit start-ups is as steep as it is for businesses.

Ever wonder why the number is so small? What stops non-profits from making that transition -- that leap into another category? There must be a moment or moments in time that divert the
course for success for some but not others.

Aside from all that "on the bus, off the bus" chatter, there is some magic that some non-profits seem to find that evolves them to a completely different playing level. Or is there?

To gain further insight into this topic I recently caught up with Annie Crawford, founder of Can Too. She started the foundation with the vision to transform lives - through improving health and wellbeing in the community and supporting the research, prevention, care and control of cancer.

Since launching the foundation back in 2005 Can Too has now trained over 10,500 people to swimming and running glory and raised over $15 million for Cure Cancer Australia and Cancer Council NSW. If you are thinking of starting--or helping to start--a non-profit, below Annie shares her top 7 tips.

1. Prove the model

Start small, evolve organically, get the template right before you expand. It is important to learn to walk before you can run. By starting small and evolving organically you can iron out the wrinkles before you expand.

Once you have the nuts and bolts of your business sorted, you can feel secure in the knowledge that you can expand without losing the integrity of your organisation or the culture that made it successful in the first place.

You can still continually receive feedback and tweak things to improve, but the essence of what you do remains the same with growth.

2. Know your vision and mission

Knowing your vision and mission makes otherwise tough questions easy to answer. If everyone in your organisation knows your vision, mission and values then they know the right answer to most questions and the right path to follow. If you put your people - either clients, stakeholders or participants first rather than internal processes or the bottom line, success comes much more easily.

3. Culture

Be clear on the culture you want to create and how to communicate and implement it. The culture of any organisation is key to its success. You need to know what the culture looks like in behavioural terms. You need to be able to communicate those behaviours to your team and then have their buy in to implement them.

4. Walk the walk

As a Founder or leader - walk the talk. Don't expect others to do what you wouldn't. As a leader you need to walk the delicate balance of being engaged with your stakeholders but not managing the minutia. You need to show your team by your own behaviour what is important to the success of the organisation and what isn't. You need to "get down and dirty" when required and know when to remove yourself.

5. Team

Build a great team around you who complement your skills. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a great team to create a Not for Profit. It is really important to allow others to feel ownership in an organisation. Everyone needs to feel instrumental in the successes and understand the challenges, so that they work together for common goals, aims and outcomes.

6. Value everyone

Value all stakeholders: partners, clients, team. If you want a Not for Profit to be successful, all stakeholders need to feel like they have skin in the game. Everyone needs to get excited by the successes and everyone needs to be concerned about the challenges.

By looking at every situation from the viewpoints of different stakeholders , rather than looking at them through a single lens, the outcomes will be more powerful.

7. Build relationships

Don't just be motivated by the bottom line - that will look after itself, if you look after relationships. At the end of the day, we are all people with feelings, egos, dreams and goals. I once read a quote that said you shouldn't treat people like you would like to be treated, because everyone likes to be treated differently.

If you can learn to read people and situations and how to respond to them , you are much more likely to be successful . You need to understand what makes people tick.

If you start with the belief that people have the best intentions, until proven otherwise, then you will have very positive relationships with most people.