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Nonprofit organizations exist in a different world from for-profit organizations—however, they share some key similarities. For instance, nonprofits solicit donors to make gifts to help further their cause; businesses solicit customers to purchase items or services to increase their revenue. Nonprofits seek out major donors and corporate sponsors; businesses look for investors.

Although nonprofit rules do not apply to businesses and vice versa, nonprofits stand to learn much from their business counterparts. In this guide, we’ll help you apply a business mindset to grow your nonprofit, increase donations, and fulfill your purpose. Leverage the following four business best practices to see greater nonprofit success.

1. Set a strategic plan.

Having a strategic plan greatly increases an organization’s chance of success. For businesses, companies with written business plans grow 30% faster and are far more likely to receive funding from investors.

Nonprofits can see similar results through planning—a study found that 86% of nonprofit respondents believed that their strategic plan positively impacted generating revenue through grants, donors, events, and more. However, though planning has many benefits, studies have found that 49% of nonprofits lack a strategic plan.

To gain the associated benefits, your nonprofit must establish a strategic plan to guide its operations. Your plan should include:

  • Your nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values
  • Your nonprofit’s short and long-term goals
  • The strategies and activities your nonprofit will conduct to achieve your goals
  • A detailed budget that outlines how your nonprofit will allocate funds for its activities and programs
  • The individuals or teams responsible for each activity
  • The key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll track to measure your success

Work together with other members of your nonprofit and your stakeholders to create your strategic plan. Involve your board, staff members, and key community partners to ensure that your goals are reasonable and that you have actionable steps laid out to achieve them. Then, use this plan to guide the rest of your nonprofit’s operations.

2. Understand the importance of marketing.

Marketing is a huge industry—after all, consistent brand exposure results in increased revenue of up to 23%. Businesses are unafraid to invest in marketing materials and consultants to help them advance their brand in the public eye. While your nonprofit might not have the funds to heavily invest in promoting your mission, it’s still important to give your marketing process the attention it needs.

One of the most important marketing lessons nonprofits need to learn is the value of multi-channel marketing. Instead of relying on email or text messages alone, branch out to various other communication channels to increase the visibility of your nonprofit.

We recommend fleshing out your marketing strategy with these channels:

  • Website. Your nonprofit’s website is the first place any interested individual will navigate to learn more about your mission, beneficiaries, and programs. Make sure that it’s visually appealing and informative, with landing pages for donations, volunteering opportunities, and more.
  • Direct mail. Although we live in an increasingly technological age, direct mail still has a place in marketing. It has a higher response rate than other marketing channels and is seen as more personal. Send out direct mail event invitations and donation requests to loyal supporters to ensure a positive response.
  • Email. Email newsletters are a great way to inform your supporters about programs or fundraising campaigns. Keep your nonprofit top of mind with monthly or weekly updates about what’s going on.
  • Social media. With over 72% of Americans using some form of social media daily, this marketing channel is extremely valuable for nonprofits who want to greatly increase their visibility. Post compelling visual and text content on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to maximize your impact.

Additionally, Crowd101 recommends that nonprofits look into advertising on Google’s search results pages with search ads. You can do this for free with the Google Ad Grant, which gives you $10,000 in free ad credit every month. As over 8 billion searches are conducted through Google a day, the Google Ad Grant is a great opportunity for nonprofits trying to get the word out about their cause.

3. Use data to inform your decisions.

Businesses understand that making informed decisions is crucial to a healthy and profitable organization. The same principle applies to nonprofits. Collecting, analyzing, and acting upon data insights makes it easier for your nonprofit to garner support, whether that’s through individual donations, securing grants, or promoting your cause.

Metrics that your nonprofit should track include:

  • Financial, like average donation amount
  • Donor engagement, such as the amount of attendees at your events
  • Program impact, like how many beneficiaries you aid
  • Volunteer metrics, including acquisition and retention rates
  • Marketing and outreach, like your follower count and total web visitor count

To ensure that you can easily access and assess your nonprofit’s data, consider investing in software that will help you do so. Just as a massage business might invest in a massage therapy software solution, you might purchase a nonprofit constituent relationship management (CRM) tool, volunteer management solution, or fundraising software, depending on your priorities and whether there are any gaps in your existing toolkit.

4. Seek out beneficial partnerships.

According to MassageBook, it’s extremely beneficial for businesses to partner with other businesses to expand their visibility and cultivate new customer prospects. Nonprofits should also seek partnerships with other organizations for increased marketing and fundraising potential as well as financial support.

Nonprofits should seek out partnerships with:

  • Other nonprofits. Collaborate with other nonprofits to address shared challenges or help mutual beneficiaries. You’ll gain access to their audience as well, which may lead to more loyal supporters for your nonprofit.
  • Businesses. Corporate sponsorships are a popular partnership for nonprofits, as businesses can provide direct financial support, in-kind donations, volunteer grants, and marketing benefits.
  • Foundations and grantmakers. Foundations and grantmakers can also offer nonprofits funding, but the process of applying for them can be time-consuming. If you’re considering this route, make sure to research potential grantmaking organizations and tailor your proposals to their requirements.
  • Advocacy groups. Consider partnering with advocacy groups interested in your cause to help spread the word about your nonprofit. Though they may not be able to contribute financially to your mission, increased awareness can lead to increased support.

After you’ve identified specific organizations to solicit for partnership, be sure to create a proposal. In it, focus on how the partnership would benefit the other organization. For example, if you’re a nonprofit that funds scoliosis research, you might request a sponsorship from a local massage business. Emphasize that in return for their funds, you’ll include their branding on your marketing materials, thereby increasing the traffic to their clinic.

Although you work at a nonprofit, don’t be afraid to take strategies and best practices from the for-profit world to push your organization ahead. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks allows you to innovate. From searching for ideas for digital fundraising to investing in tools that increase your efficiency, be sure to research thoroughly before you take the leap.

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