Million-dollar question: How do you scale your nonprofit?
So you started a nonprofit to make a difference. The mission is set, the programs are running, people's lives are being changed. But now you're struggling to take it to the next level financially. Money is tight, demand is high, and you need to scale fast to help more people. The step-by-step process to scaling a nonprofit can seem overwhelming. Where do you even start?
We understand the challenges nonprofits face and have developed a blueprint to help you scale your impact. Over the next few minutes, we'll walk you through the key steps to scaling your nonprofit in a strategic, sustainable way. From optimizing your fundraising strategy to building a powerhouse board to expanding into new programs and locations, we'll show you how to take your nonprofit to the next level so you can transform even more lives. Are you ready to scale your nonprofit and change the world?
Assess Your Nonprofit's Readiness to Scale
Before diving into scaling your nonprofit, you need to determine if you're really ready. Some key signs you have the capacity to scale include:
- You have a sustainable funding model. Whether through donations, grants, or other sources, you have a steady stream of revenue to support growth.
- Your programs and services are standardized. You have clear processes documented, so you can replicate your work efficiently as you expand.
- You have a strong leadership team. Your staff has the skills and experience to take on more responsibility. They are also open to change and willing to adapt as the organization grows.
- Your technology infrastructure can support expansion. You have software and systems in place to help you operate on a larger scale. Things like a CRM to manage donors, a CMS for your website, and project management tools.
- You have a strategic growth plan. You've identified new areas or communities you want to serve and have a roadmap for expanding your reach over the next 3-5 years.
- You have support from your board and community. Your board of directors and local community are enthusiastic about seeing your nonprofit expand its impact. They will champion your efforts to scale.
If most of these signs resonate with you, congratulations! Your nonprofit is poised for meaningful growth. If not, spend time strengthening your foundation before rushing in to scale. Slow, sustainable growth will serve you much better in the long run. With the right preparation, you'll be ready to take your nonprofit to new heights.
Create a Strategic Plan for Growth
If you want to scale your nonprofit to help more people, it's time to get strategic. A solid plan for growth will help guide your decisions and keep you on track.
Creating a Strategic Plan for Growth
First, evaluate your current situation. Analyze your programs, funding sources, and organizational capacity. See what's working well and what could use improvement. Get input from key stakeholders like staff, board members, and clients.
Next, set concrete goals for the next 3 to 5 years. Do you want to serve more people? Expand to new locations? Offer additional services? Increase your budget by a certain percentage? Be specific and realistic.
Then, outline the steps required to achieve each goal. This could include things like:
- Hiring more staff or recruiting more volunteers
- Updating your fundraising strategy to bring in larger donations
- Building partnerships with other organizations
- Improving your marketing to reach new potential clients
- Expanding or improving your programs and services
Also, create a timeline for implementation and determine how you'll measure progress. Review and revise the plan annually to keep it current.
With a strategic plan grounded in your nonprofit's mission and values, you'll have a roadmap to navigate growth in a sustainable way. Stay focused on the goals and priorities you've outlined, even when facing challenges. This will help ensure your nonprofit realizes its full potential. By thinking big picture and taking proactive steps, you absolutely can scale up and make an even bigger difference.
Build a Strong Leadership Team
As the founder, you can’t do it all yourself. Identify and recruit talented, mission-driven individuals who will help take your organization to the next level.
Define Key Roles
Determine what roles you need to fill to support your strategic priorities. Typical positions might include:
- Executive Director: Leads the organization and oversees daily operations. Works with the board to set strategy and vision.
- Program Director: Manages programs and services. Ensures high quality and impact.
- Development Director: Leads fundraising through grants, events, donations, and partnerships. Develops and executes a comprehensive development plan.
- Operations Manager: Oversees finance, human resources, facilities, and IT. Keeps the organization running smoothly behind the scenes.
- Board Members: Provides governance and guidance. Assists with fundraising and strategic planning. Diverse, committed individuals with relevant skills and networks.
Write Clear Job Descriptions
For each role, develop a detailed job description that outlines key responsibilities and requirements. Post on your website and job sites to attract qualified candidates.
Use your networks and social media to spread the word about openings. Reach out to partner organizations and post on idealist.org and nonprofitjobsite.com. Review applications, conduct phone screens, and interview top candidates. Check references to find the best fit.
Provide Strong Orientation and Training
Once you’ve hired new team members, provide resources and support to help them succeed. Develop an orientation manual to give context about your nonprofit’s history, mission, values, programs, and key initiatives. Set clear expectations and offer ongoing coaching and training opportunities. Your leadership team will determine the future of your organization, so investing in their growth and development is key.
Building an effective leadership team is challenging work, but following these steps will put your nonprofit in a strong position to scale and increase your impact. Identify the right roles, recruit strategically, and support your team’s success—that’s the blueprint for nonprofit leadership.
Invest in Technology and Systems
Investing in technology and streamlining your systems are two of the best ways to scale your nonprofit financially. As you grow, manual processes and outdated technology will only slow you down and limit your impact. Here are some ways you can take to leverage technology and improve your systems.
Update your website
Your website is often the first impression people have of your organization. Make sure it's modern, mobile-friendly, and tells your story in an impactful way. Allow donors to give online and share your mission on social media. A user-friendly website will make it easy for people to learn about and support your cause.
Invest in donor management software
As your donor base grows, you'll need a better way to track donations, communicate with supporters, and gain insights into your fundraising efforts. Donor management software like DonorPerfect, Neon, or Bloomerang can help you organize your donor info, see reports on giving trends, and send targeted emails to engage your supporters.
Streamline your accounting
Using spreadsheets and manual bookkeeping processes won't cut it as you scale. Accounting software like QuickBooks for Nonprofits or Sage Intacct can automate tasks like accounts payable/receivable, budgeting, and financial reporting. Your data will be secure, accurate, and accessible from anywhere.
Digitize as many of your processes as possible. Use online file sharing and storage instead of paper files. Send digital newsletters and appeal letters rather than printing and mailing them. Allow donors to sign up for recurring gifts and fill out donation forms on your website. The less time you spend pushing paper, the more you can focus on your mission.
Invest in the right tools and systems now so your nonprofit can operate efficiently at scale. Technology and streamlined processes are investments that will save you time and money for years to come.
Diversify Your Funding Sources
To ensure your nonprofit’s longevity, you need to diversify your funding sources. Relying too heavily on any one source of income puts you in a precarious position. Spreading out your funding across a variety of sources provides stability and flexibility.
Donations from individuals make up the largest source of charitable giving. Focus on small recurring donations through a monthly giving program. Provide various donation levels and incentives to appeal to donors at different levels. Use social media, email marketing, and events to raise awareness and inspire people to give.
Seek out foundation grants, government grants, and corporate grants. Do research to find those that align with your mission and priorities. Grant writing does require time and expertise, so consider hiring a grant writer, at least temporarily. Grants provide larger amounts of funding for longer periods of time, but often come with strict requirements on how the money is used.
Develop mutually beneficial partnerships with corporations. They provide funding, in-kind donations, or volunteer help in exchange for recognition and marketing exposure. Be very transparent about how their support will be acknowledged to avoid misunderstandings. Start with local small businesses that share your values before approaching larger companies.
Host events like galas, walks/runs, auctions, or donation drives to raise money from ticket sales, pledges, and donations. Fundraisers also raise awareness for your cause. Keep costs low by getting donated goods and services as well as using volunteers.
Provide updates on the impact of funds raised to inspire continued support.
Generate income through the sale of goods, services, or renting out space. The key is that it's aligned with your mission. For example, a food bank could open a small grocery store to provide job training and affordable food where profits fund their programs. Or rent out event space to like-minded groups. Earned income provides financial stability not dependent on the generosity of others.
Diversifying your funding sources takes time and effort, but will put your nonprofit in a much stronger position to fulfill its important mission for years to come. Spread your nest egg across these various baskets to ensure you have funding to continue your good work at any scale.
Expand Your Programs and Services
As your donor base grows, you need to provide new opportunities for them to support your mission.
Diversify Your Programs
Don't rely on just one or two flagship programs. Develop a range of initiatives, campaigns, and events at different giving levels. This allows donors to find the right fit for their interests and budget. For example, you might offer:
- Entry-level giving campaigns (direct mail, crowdfunding)
- Mid-level donor events (galas, fundraisers)
- Major gift opportunities (naming rights, endowments)
- Planned giving vehicles (bequests, annuities)
Extend Your Reach
Look for ways to expand into new areas that align with your mission. This could be serving more people, covering a wider geographic range, or addressing adjacent issues. For instance, a food bank may start a job training program, an animal shelter may add wildlife rehabilitation, or an arts organization may launch an arts education outreach initiative. These kinds of program expansions open up funding from new sources.
Demonstrate Your Impact
As you scale your programs, continue to measure and share the impact with donors. Show how their dollars are being put to good use through statistics, stories, and reports. Be transparent about how you're using funds to solve problems and change lives. This accountability and evidence of impact will inspire donors to continue and increase their support.
Build Partnerships and Collaborations
Collaborate and Partner
Partnering with other nonprofits on programs, events, or campaigns is an easy way to extend your reach without significant added costs. Look for organizations with a shared mission or complementary services. Collaboration allows you to tap into each other's donor bases and raise awareness for the collective cause. Be open to innovative partnerships that can create new funding streams.
Find Shared Goals
Look for other groups working toward similar goals. Reach out to set up an intro call to discuss ways you might support each other. For example, a nonprofit focused on education could partner with groups providing children’s services or workforce development. Shared goals build a foundation for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
Co-branding, or jointly promoting brands together, is an easy way to start collaborating. You might cross-promote on social media, co-host an event, or develop co-branded merchandise. This increases visibility for both groups and introduces new audiences to your mission. Over time, co-branding often leads to deeper partnerships.
Explore Joint Programming
With established partners, explore developing joint programs or shared resources. This could include collaborative grant proposals, shared administrative functions like HR or accounting, or complementary program offerings. Joint programming allows you to have greater impact at a lower cost. However, be sure to outline shared responsibilities and decision making processes clearly to avoid future conflicts.
Seek Out Corporate Sponsors
Corporate sponsors are valuable long-term funders. Do research to find businesses aligned with your mission. Pitch a sponsorship highlighting partnership benefits like employee engagement, community goodwill, and brand exposure. Start with a small project to build trust, then develop multi-year sponsorships. Provide regular updates on the impact of their support.
This will implement the brand of your nonprofit.
Apply for Collaborative Grants
Collaborative grants encourage nonprofits to work together toward a common goal. Government agencies and private foundations offer grants for collaborative initiatives in areas like education, health, environment, and more. Working with partners strengthens your grant application by demonstrating greater community benefit. Be prepared to outline each group's role and plan for sustaining the partnership beyond the grant period.
Build a network of strong, mutually supportive relationships. This will will help your nonprofit grow in a sustainable way. Look for opportunities to collaborate with groups sharing your vision for a better world. Together, you can achieve more than you ever could alone.
Marketing and Communications for Growth
Build your brand
Develop a consistent brand for your nonprofit including a logo, color palette, and fonts. This helps establish your credibility and makes you look professional. Use it on your website, social media, and all print materials.
Optimize your website
Your website is often the first impression for donors. Make sure it's user-friendly, showcases your mission, and has an easy donation process. Include stories and photos of people you've helped. Update content regularly to keep people coming back.
Expand social media
Use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spread awareness about your cause and engage with supporters. Post a mix of stories, news updates, calls-to-action, and behind-the-scenes looks to build genuine connections. Run social media contests and campaigns to increase followers and donations.
Send a newsletter
Start an email newsletter to stay in touch with donors and promote your mission. Share recent accomplishments, events, volunteer opportunities and, of course, donation appeals and fundraising campaigns. Make it visual and keep content concise. Aim for monthly or quarterly.
Reach out to media
Build relationships with local media like newspapers, TV stations, podcasts, and radio shows. Pitch them story ideas about the people you serve, or new programs and initiatives. Getting featured in the media is free publicity that raises awareness and credibility. Mention ways for people to get involved or donate.
Following these steps to strengthen your marketing and communications will significantly impact your nonprofit's ability to scale financially over time. The key is consistency and persistence. Keep working to spread your mission far and wide.
Measure and Evaluate Your Scale Your Nonprofit Progress
To scale your nonprofit financially, you need to measure and evaluate your progress. This allows you to see what’s working, make necessary changes, and secure more funding.
Track Donations and Revenue Streams
Keep close tabs on all revenue coming into your nonprofit. Note the source, amount, and any relevant details for each donation or payment. See if certain fundraising campaigns or events are particularly successful. Look for patterns to determine the best way to generate income. You should also monitor grants, sponsorships, and any goods or services you sell.
Evaluate how you’re spending money and look for ways to cut or reduce costs. Are there any unnecessary or inefficient expenses? Could you save by switching vendors or renegotiating contracts? Look for sustainable ways to trim the budget so more funding goes directly to your programs and services.
Measure Program Impact and Outcomes
Track how your programs and initiatives are impacting the community. Survey participants and look at key metrics to gauge success. Share these outcomes with donors and sponsors to illustrate the difference their support makes. Make adjustments as needed to improve results. The more lives you change, the easier it will be to make a case for funding.
Set Fundraising Goals
Establish clear targets for raising money from different sources like individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. Break down larger goals into smaller, actionable steps. Review progress regularly and revise goals as needed based on your measurements and evaluations. Exceeding your fundraising goals will mean more financial stability and ability to expand your mission.
To scale sustainably, you need to know where you are, where you want to go, and the best path to get there.
You now have the blueprint to take your nonprofit to the next level. By focusing on diversifying your funding, optimizing your fundraising strategy, building your brand, and developing key partnerships, you'll establish a solid foundation for growth.
It will take dedication and hard work, but with the right plan and team behind you, you absolutely have what it takes to scale your nonprofit and increase your impact. So start putting these steps into action, connect with your supporters, and get ready to bring your mission to more people than ever before. The future of your nonprofit is bright—now go out there and make it happen! Best of luck with your mission to scale your nonprofit!
About ForGranted: ForGranted Media specializes in all facets of emerging technological advancements, finance, fundraising and marketing for your nonprofit. Our sole mission is to provide with resources to become a stronger organization!