Nonprofits face unique challenges, and those challenges morph over time. I’ve reviewed a number of articles and reports on nonprofits for you, to create a concise and comprehensive list of modern challenges. New challenges are brought about by a changing social, economic and political climate. Some classic challenges arise from new solutions and new pitfalls that require adaptation.
Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions?
- “Can my nonprofit crowdfund?”
- “Should I turn off my work cell phone on weekends to maintain my sanity?”
- “Who is most likely to volunteer for my nonprofit, and how do I get them to do so?”
- “How do I connect with other nonprofits to leverage our resources together?”
- “Is my board actually engaged in our goals as a nonprofit?”
If so, you’re not alone. All of these and more are major concerns for many nonprofits today. This article brings together a set of challenges faced by nonprofits today, with questions and concerns. The best first step to address a challenge is to name it and consider how it directly affects your organization.
- Ensuring Nonpartisanship
Nonprofit nonpartisanship, freedom from political lobbying and political interference in operation, has been a cornerstone of not-for-profit organizations. The National Council for Nonprofits has brought to light that the current federal political climate is threatening the ability for nonprofits to remain “trustworthy” in the public consciousness. Will nonprofits become political tools used to grab votes? Will nonprofits be able to remain sufficiently neutral to provide value to all? The future is currently uncertain, and attention to this issue is worth your while!
Critical, challenging, and complicated. Post-recession fundraising is a brave new world, along with ensuring that your organization is considered trustworthy in the use funds. Seeking new and novel ways to fund your work (crowdfunding anyone?) raise ethical and logistical questions. Opportunities are increasing for novel small-scale fundraising, but keeping on top of the legality of new fundraising venues while maintaining existing, important funding sources can be a real challenge.
- Time management and sustainability
The 2015 Nonprofit Marketing Guide found that the most common issue nonprofits run into was overwhelmingly finding time to produce quality content. Being pulled in multiple directions on a daily basis, with increased connectivity outside “normal business hours” and ongoing increases in demands with decreased resources are leading to issues of lost focus and burnout. Time is finite, so using your nonprofit’s staff and board effectively without overextending them, is critical to keep your nonprofit functional.
- Developing meaningful collaborative connections
As we said in item #3, time is finite and staff can be stretched past their limits. What’s the answer? It likely lies in collaboration and resource leveraging between multiple nonprofits, to support mutual goals and enable us all to succeed without stretching ourselves too thinly to function. Using the resources of other nonprofits while lending your expertise and capacity can allow your nonprofit to meet its goals while remaining fiscally solvent and engaged with your community.
- Volunteer recruitment and retention in a post 9/11 world
the landscape of volunteerism is changing, and it is closely tied to the age of volunteers and the respective ties felt by age groups. Nonprofit Quarterly has created a very thorough, very revealing review of the why and how for volunteering behavior in the US. The old and the young are more engaged today, and targeting these groups for increased volunteer recruitment could be a source of real success for nonprofits.
- Quality leadership from board members
encouraging board members to engage in advocacy may require training! Ensuring your board members stay on-message, active, and productive to your organization isn’t something that necessarily falls into place on its own. Just like managers need training, board members may need to be taught the methods your nonprofit needs to best lead and represent your mission.
- Generating and utilizing feedback
your beneficiaries, staff, funders, and your board all have ideas, opinions and concerns about your nonprofit. How do they get that information to you? How do you use it? Are you getting the best information possible on how to improve, and what you already do well? Feedback matters, but gathering feedback can be an afterthought, or a time sink, so a consistent, streamlined feedback strategy can benefit your nonprofit over and over again.
What’s the answer? What can you do for your nonprofit to meet these challenges head-on? Encouraging a real work-life-balance for employees, increasing and improving upon collaboration, targeted recruitment and improvement in training are all solutions to the major challenges faced by nonprofits today. A little organization and being proactive can go a long way toward making your nonprofit an effective and successful enterprise.