Have you ever encountered a nonprofit organization that just wowed you? An organization that effectively pursued its mission and grew its fundraising, while rallying a community of passionate supporters? A modern nonprofit that experimented and innovated, and was clearly getting good results?
The first thing I ask when I encounter a nonprofit like that is, “What are they doing behind the scenes?” Behind every organization is a collection of decisions, mindsets, processes, and approaches that are engineered to get the results they’re getting.
So, what are those things?
Here at Virtuous, we’ve identified five attributes of flourishing nonprofits.
The first attribute that sets flourishing nonprofits apart is a switch in mindset. In order to change the way you operate, you have to first change the way you think.
In the midst of the constant activity of running a nonprofit, it’s easy to keep going full-steam ahead without stopping to take stock. But there’s a lot of value in slowing down to take a look at what you’re doing.
You can’t expect new results by doing the same old things. Taking a responsive mindset means prioritizing your supporters’ experience and focusing on building authentic relationships, rather than simply pursuing your fundraising or volunteer goals. It means taking risks and trying new things and letting go of things that are no longer working.
Silos between departments and functions at nonprofit organizations are a common problem. Without sharing data and goals, teams inadvertently work at cross purposes. The fundraising team does one thing, pursuing certain goals, while the volunteer team is working on something else. Meanwhile, finance, marketing, and program may all be doing entirely different things. No one is quite sure what the others are doing until they encounter friction.
It’s simple to see how silos affect your organization internally. Misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and sometimes outright conflict are the natural consequence of not sharing information. But silos within your organization can affect your supporters’ experience, too.
When you take a holistic view of your supporters’ giving, including volunteerism and advocacy, as well as monetary donations, you may find that they interact with your organization in more than one capacity. In order to craft successful supporter journeys that deepen your relationships and build lasting connections, you need to consider their experience with the entire organization.
Your volunteers may be donors. Your donors may also be advocates. They may be receiving communications from and interacting with different departments throughout your organization. If you’re siloed, they’re probably not having a cohesive experience. They may even be having a disjointed and confusing one, with competing suggestions and limited personalization.
Flourishing nonprofits refuse to stay siloed. It’s a significant undertaking, but you can’t experience your full potential as an organization without taking steps to break those silos down. Aligned teams pursue holistic generosity together.
Short Meetings to Sync Up
Schedule regular, frequent times to quickly report on data, goals, and plans. Look for opportunities to collaborate across teams and look out for points of confusion or accidentally competing goals or plans.
Does everyone who needs to see your data know where it is? Can they easily access it? If not, silos will persist. A responsive nonprofit CRM can help by making data visible across the team. In addition, developing a reporting schedule to keep everyone up to date can help.
Creating a Generosity Ops Team
“One strategy that we’ve found to be particularly effective in removing these walls is the formation of a Generosity Ops team,” says Virtuous CEO Gabe Cooper. “Rather than focusing on traditional Fundraising Operations, the Generosity Ops team sits outside of the other departments and becomes a broker of shared data insights and learnings across the organization.”
This team connects the dots for the entire organization and brings up opportunities to build more holistic relationships with supporters. While staffing an entire team may not work for every nonprofit, even an individual or committee devoted to analyzing and sharing data with a holistic perspective can make a big difference in breaking down silos.
How does your technology serve your organization? How does it serve your supporters?
Technology is more than a helper–it’s essential. Successful nonprofits identify ways to improve processes for their organizations and their supporters alike. They think carefully about their technology ecosystems and try to get the most out of the tools they have for greater collaboration.
Within the organization, a responsive nonprofit platform helps to give a holistic view of supporters, streamline communications, and manage data. They value data-based insights to listen to their supporters, and use marketing automation to connect personally with every supporter.
Technology can also help create better experiences for supporters. From seamless donation pages on your website to adopting a tech platform for volunteer management, technology can make doing good significantly more convenient, and consequently, help more supporters take action.
If you’re investigating new nonprofit technology, check out our Nonprofit CRM Checklist to help guide your search.
Every individual supporter is someone who can contribute to your mission. Whether it’s by making a monetary gift, volunteering, sharing your messages, or advocating for your cause, there are many ways to give. No matter what your supporters choose to give–their money, time, influence, voice–one thing remains the same: giving is deeply personal.
Flourishing nonprofits meet their supporters where they are, personally. They listen to their signals, connect in meaningful ways, and offer relevant suggestions for their next best steps. They’re responsive to every supporter. This builds long-lasting, authentic relationships.
In the past, it made sense that you would have personalized connections with your major donors, and send mass messages to everyone else. There simply wasn’t a way to personalize communications at scale. Now, we have the tools to give every supporter a personalized, relevant experience.
Consider the difference:
Talia is a volunteer and donor to a Friends of the Park organization. She spends several hours a month cleaning up trails and makes an annual gift of about $50. She got involved with the park because she’s an avid hiker and birdwatcher.
Traditionally, Talia might receive an annual appeal that doesn’t reference her volunteer service and a separate annual volunteer appreciation letter. In addition, she might get a monthly mass email newsletter. This supporter experience isn’t bad, but it also doesn’t feel personal or bring her closer to the organization than she already is. If she stopped volunteering or giving, she’d probably still receive the same annual appeal and monthly newsletters.
At a responsive organization, Talia would receive communications that are tailored to her interests and involvement. She would be part of a segment of volunteers who are also donors, so that fundraising appeals she received would acknowledge the whole picture of her involvement with the organization. She might receive a $10 monthly gift ask, rather than a generic annual appeal. She can manage her volunteer schedule via an app. She might receive email updates about the trails, hiking, and news about birds in the park, along with upcoming volunteer opportunities. If she stopped volunteering or giving, someone would reach out in response. At every step, Talia feels like an individual and an important part of the team.
Where is Talia going to stay? Which organization has earned her trust? Which organization can she build an authentic relationship with? Personalization takes supporters beyond simple transactions of checkbooks and volunteer slots, and takes them to something transformational.
What happens when we aren’t only looking to hit our numbers and fill our volunteer slots, but also to engage the heart of the whole supporter? When we view our supporters through a holistic lens, we start asking better questions than simply, “Did they give or not? Did they sign up or not?” We can ask:
Generosity is good for everyone, supporters and organizations alike. Flourishing nonprofits help people activate their generosity, not only to meet the organization’s needs, but to increase the joy and meaning in the lives of their supporters.
Flourishing nonprofits who adopt a responsive mindset, break down silos, embrace technology, personalize for all, and use a holistic giver strategy are connecting with more supporters in more lasting ways. They’re activating donors and volunteers to give generously and become part of the mission for the long haul.
The technology you use can help you flourish. At Virtuous, we’re here to be your partner, not just a vendor. Find out how our Responsive Fundraising Platform can help your organization grow and thrive today.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.