Planning Ahead Can Help Ease Growing Pains for Nonprofits

Planning is as important for nonprofits as it is for businesses.

Photo: Shutterstock

Growing a nonprofit can be exciting, giving the organization the opportunity to better pursue its mission. But it can also bring along problems if that growth is not well managed in the first place.

Although they have different goals, nonprofits and businesses can learn from each other, and both can benefit from that exchange. While there are a number of practices in the business world that don’t quite translate to the nonprofit field, there are some that can be very helpful, such as having a business plan.

The idea behind a business plan is to be sure you know how you’re starting your business and how you’re planning on growing it in the future. Since the goal of a business is to make money, it’s a safe assumption that, if successful, a business will bring in more money than it needs to cover costs, and have the opportunity to grow.

This isn’t always true of nonprofits, which don’t always find themselves flush with cash. But when they do, thanks to a successful campaign or to a very generous donation, it can be tempting to spend that cash without planning ahead.

Don’t do that.

It sounds kind of obvious when you read about it in this context, but planning for what to do if your organization hits it big and has the money to expand isn’t something that every nonprofit does. It’s important to ask yourself, first and foremost, if growth is in the organization’s best interest. Do you need to add staff or services? Can you sustain those if donation levels drop back to normal?

These are the kinds of questions that successful business owners ask themselves before they spend an influx of cash, knowing that sometimes its safer to simply hold back and see if the higher income is a sure thing. To be a successful nonprofit, make sure you ask yourself the same questions.

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