Why Treating Your Nonprofit Like a Startup Can Lead It To Success

The mindset you have when you’re part of a startup is quite unique. The culture itself is totally different from what you’d experience at a seasoned company. Everyone is part of a growing organism at the beginning stages of its journey. Every culture in a company has its benefits and downfalls, with startups being a bit more on the passionate side, aiming to create something out of nothing unlike most already established corporations.

A lot of people consider common startup practices to be increasingly beneficial for any company, whether you are just beginning or you’ve already been established for a while. When speaking of nonprofits, many have an issue thinking of how to set up their company culture since they are technically a company, and run as a business, but in a nonprofit format. Since the mindset you have when you’re part of a startup is quite unique, applying your mindset to a nonprofit can be kind of tricky. Below we’ve laid out some tips on how you can adopt the startup ideology to benefit your nonprofit organization.

1. Make Sure Your Mindset is on Growth

Growth. That is one of the keys to a successful nonprofit. If you and your team are not focused on growth, then you will become stagnant and end up running out of resources. A mindset focused on growth is what is going to lead others to want to help along on the journey, whether it’s volunteers, employees, or the provision of funding and resources. Don’t allow yourself or your team to become complacent with your work, mission, or goals or things will begin to fall apart.

2. Live What You Preach

In order to get people to treat your nonprofit the way you think it should be treated, you have to adapt and see it from their point of view. Just like a startup, you must mimic the behavior that you are asking from your users. If you want them to act professional, you must put out professional content and interactions. If you would rather have a laid-back community driven approach, then do that. Be clear in what you want your mission to be and what is driving your organization that way those around you who would like to work with your nonprofit can clearly decide whether they want to be a part of it or not.

3. Make Sure Your Staff Shares Your Mission

As the soul and core of your organization, its members are of utter importance to your work and to achieving your mission and goals. You have to make sure that the people you are bringing on as part of your organization are as driven by your mission as you are and that you are supporting them in an effort to live by that mission. Overall your organizations culture must align deeply with the mission you are trying to achieve.

4. Be Ready to Reward Outside the Box Thinkers

It is common for nonprofits to be limited in the amount of staff and resources they have available. This can cause difficulty when trying to resolve issues and create a path towards reaching their goals. With these limitations, it is necessary to not only pick a staff willing to go above and beyond, but also to be ready to reward those who do so and who think outside the box when it comes to problem solving. Prizes, or some sort of non-monetary incentive, can make a big difference in the overall team morale, bringing your team closer together. Incentives could lead to more productivity within the organization. Strive for creativity and see what results.

5. Make Engagement a Priority

Although it might not seem like it to some, happier employees are more productive employees. In recent years, happiness has been used as a measurement in the workplace and has fallen by the waist side, and with that, so has cohesiveness in a team’s life goals and overall productivity. By creating work spaces where people are fine with their employees being unhappy and unfulfilled, we are making organizations suffer by not letting them reach their full productivity potential. Startup mentality, applied to a nonprofit setting, allows for teams to be hired that work well together and that have similar life goals. This will better increase workplace happiness levels, and therefore increase productivity. Not only this, but it allows for teams to be able to fulfill some of these goals through their work and with the support of their employer. By doing so, they will experience and increase in the quality of life they are living.

6. Make Your Point of View Your Client’s Perspective

Make sure you’re not slacking in any part of your business. Every organization has certain things that get left behind when it comes to prioritization. This, in the long run, can cause real issues when those disregarded points become bigger and bigger. Adopting an, “every issue is most important,” approach, as many startups do, can be a major help when looking to do this. Changing your point of view to align with the perspective your client has when they engage with your organization can easily assist you, not allowing any issues to be overlooked that could turn into major problems.  

7. Think Big Picture, But Refine Your Strengths First

As an organization it’s easy to focus too much on growth, rather than perfecting your model first, then finding ways to grow. As a nonprofit you must adapt in a way that you can measure your impact on your target demographic. When you see how your organization can benefit these people, you can make a more educated decision on how you’ll go about growing your entity to help even more people in the future.

8. Disrupt! Disrupt! Disrupt!

Always keep that in the back of your mind. If you don’t disrupt, someone else will disrupt for you. Thinking this way helps you get creative and find new ways to add to your organization, whether it is a new outlet for support or new ways to fundraise, in a radical way it all benefits the organization in the end. Leverage the resources you have available to you as a nonprofit to make strides within your organization and your market. This will help you generate more productive ways of accomplishing goals within your business.

9. Rely on Your Passion

Just like in startup culture, passion must be the driving force behind your work. In a startup, teams come to terms with the fact that they must do whatever it takes to succeed, because the organization depends on it. This is also true for nonprofits, and you as a leader must make sure your team acts like it. As a unit, everyone needs to be passionate about what they’re doing and want to make the necessary moves to succeed in bringing the organizations mission to fruition.

startup, nonprofit, business, organization