The challenge every nonprofit faces

Chris Esh

My work tends to be split evenly between nonprofits and small businesses. Both of these are fundamentally the same in a lot of ways when it comes to things like marketing, websites, and an online presence. Essentially, both are trying to connect with their audience, build trust, and have people want to continue to work with them, support them, whatever it is.

That being said, there is one big fundamental way in which they’re different. Businesses make their money from the people who they are helping. For example, I provide a service to clients, and the clients pay me money in return.

Whereas nonprofits, for the most part, are working with two different groups. The people that are funding the work. Whether that be individual donors or foundations or governments. And the people that are benefiting from the work. The exception being membership organizations or a few others. In the vast majority of cases this is true though. In some cases the gap between the goal for helping those two groups of people can cause serious problems. Sometimes it forces nonprofits to go after the money at the expense of the people that they’re trying to help.

I worked in nonprofits for a number of years before starting my company. At least a few of these led to quite a bit of disillusionment. Particularly after it became apparent that they were so dependent on keeping funders happy that they sometimes had to sacrifice what we all thought would have been the best way to serve the people that we were initially set up to help. However, this is the reality of nonprofits.  It’s not something you can completely get away from. Although there are some ways in which you can mitigate the pain of this, this discrepancy.

How to Face These Issues As A Nonprofit

The first is to be crystal clear in your mission, and trust that the people that believe in this mission will find you and stick around to support you. The smaller this niche is, the better this will work.

Second, resist the temptation to chase trends if they require you to water down your mission to find these funds.

And third, focus on getting better instead of getting bigger.

This approach may require you to sacrifice potential funding opportunities. But if it means that you can consistently stick to the mission that you were created to achieve, and if your real supporters can continue to see you as the most genuine organization in your field, I believe that is the path to long-term sustainable success.

In short, the closer you can keep your supporters to your beneficiaries in terms in terms of the vision for what you’re doing, the better your nonprofit will be in the long run.


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