Our Shared Sector: 7 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Make Virtual Meetings More Inclusive

By YW Boston

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In the midst of a crisis, continuing to foster an inclusive workplace is as important as ever. Nonprofits know that COVID-19 is impacting communities in different ways. As some organizations continue to work remotely, leaders and managers must ensure that they support staff of all identities. Here are some best practices for supporting staff and practicing inclusivity in a virtual landscape.

  1. Acknowledge and address the diverse challenges of working remotely and during a crisis.

Let people know you are aware that individuals’ experiences vary during this time. The ability to work remotely in a comfortable space is a privilege not everyone has. People may not have the technology for regular video conferencing. Living situations also vary by individual: many people live with roommates or are balancing work with caring for others. Give people advance notice if there is an expectation for them to participate via video, and send a follow-up email with action items.

  1. Explicitly incorporate an inclusion lens and remain mindful of bias.

Begin meetings with a focused statement that centers DE&I and your organization’s mission. Recognize that microaggressions can still occur virtually, and encourage people to reach out to you or to colleagues for support if they run into barriers to full participation. Setting a precedent of open communication around decision-making can also go a long way in empowering employees. Before announcing a policy change, emphasize that your organization is seeking solutions that do not cause disparate impact and that team members should weigh in with their feedback. Provide private ways for employees to submit feedback, in order to mitigate the risk of making anyone feel like their needs and concerns are being exposed.

  1. Offer micro-affirmations.

Managers can help counteract feelings of isolation among those they manage, especially employees who hold marginalized identities. Micro-affirmations include recognizing the achievements of others, taking a professional interest in staff, and asking for others’ opinions. These small gestures can often be overlooked during times of crisis.

  1. Leverage technology + structured participation to capture diverse viewpoints.

Without the ability to see body language, people with marginalized identities may find it even harder to jump into a discussion. Incorporate different participation strategies, such as a round-robin, that give everyone the opportunity to speak. Emphasize that you want to hear input from everyone. Use technology tools—such as chat rooms, polling, and other in-app nonverbal feedback functions—to get input on ideas.

  1. Delegate responsibilities.

Prioritizing inclusion can be more challenging when simultaneously managing technology. Consider holding meetings with a co-host. By sharing the work, you can focus on facilitating and noticing which individuals the team has not heard from.

  1. Take advantage of supervisory meetings.

Managers have opportunities to build their inclusive practices during 1-on-1 meetings. Ask open-ended questions to learn about specific concerns and listen for challenges related to employees’ physical workspace, feelings of isolation, or changes in mood and appearance. Work with each employee to ensure they have what they need to feel good about their work. As a manager, you can use these learnings to advocate for all staff members to ensure everyone receives necessary support. Your organization’s leadership should observe common themes in order to implement new policies and practices.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. 

Nonprofit 411: Strategic Planning…Now?

Nonprofit 411 Pear Associates-min-minBy Alison Glisten Gray, Pear Associates

When COVID-19 entered our lives, many of us reacted with panic and uncertainty. Immediately, nonprofit organizations were faced with some big questions: How will this shift from the business-as-usual impact our clients, our employees, our donors? Will we still be able to deliver quality programs and services? How will this impact our bottom line? All of these are legitimate questions nonprofits are asking themselves, and the answers have resulted in a significant shift in the way many organizations are now operating and delivering services.

I would suggest this is also the time to consider some new questions: what can we learn about how we develop and deliver services? How can this situation make us more efficient and more effective? Can we be more strategic about the ways we meet our greatest community needs?

Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with English at Large of Woburn to create a strategic plan. According to Maureen Willis, Executive Director, “this helped put us in a position of strength as we plan for the impact of the pandemic. The process brought clarity to our strengths and priorities and gave us a strong vision for what we want to achieve in the future.”

Perhaps the idea of embarking on a strategic planning process amid such ambiguity about our economic and social future seems futile. However, this may just be the perfect time to prioritize how your organization will have the greatest impact. As my client, Lara Quiroga, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Children at Amoskeag Health in Manchester, NH, says “now is the right time to focus on strategic planning, for both the short and long-term…this has helped provide clarity on the work that needs to happen, especially during a time of crisis when it’s difficult to focus on the future and easy to mission-drift.”

For those who have strategic plans in place, I encourage you to review your goals and objectives for the coming year and make the changes now to reflect how you want to deliver quality services after the crisis is over. If you are considering embarking on a planning process, I suggest you revisit the mission and vision of your organization and let that guide your future. Use this time to explore how you can innovate and be creative as you respond to the current landscape and changing future. Working with your Board and staff to create a clear path forward could be one positive outcome for your organization in this challenging time.

At the beginning of 2020, before COVID was part of our daily vocabulary, I worked with the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) to create a 12-month action plan while they were experiencing incredible growth. NICRA’s Executive Director, Steve Christensen, asserts, “having a plan… allowed us to continue on our planned path without being distracted by media reports and many other influences.”

He also shares, “COVID-19 took us off our strategic plan highway a little, but we knew exactly how to get back in on the on-ramp to pick up where we left off.” 

With some thoughtful planning, your organization can also be successful in staying on track to meet community needs while adjusting to unexpected change.

 

Nonprofit 411: Emergency Law Provides Governance Flexibility for Massachusetts Nonprofits

Nonprofit 411 Hemenway & Barnes-min-min-minBy Brad Bedingfield and Eleanor Evans, Hemenway & Barnes

On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, which includes an emergency provision (Section 16) intended to make it easier for nonprofits incorporated in Massachusetts to function remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. During the governor’s state of emergency (declared on March 10, 2020) and for 60 days thereafter, a nonprofit board may take certain actions regardless of what the nonprofit’s bylaws may say, so long as the nonprofit’s Articles of Organization do not expressly forbid it. Specifically, the board may:

Service of Directors and Officers:

  • Allow directors and officers to continue to serve beyond their designated terms during the state of emergency and until their successors are elected and take office.
  • Appoint successors to any officers or directors (as well as employees or agents), even if the bylaws do not otherwise provide for that.

Board Meetings:

  • Provide notice of board meetings in whatever manner is practicable under the circumstances, and to whichever directors it is practicable to reach.
  • Allow directors to participate in board meetings through the use of any means of communication by which all directors participating are able to communicate simultaneously, even if they cannot all hear each other simultaneously. Directors who participate in a board meeting held according to Section 16 are deemed to constitute a quorum, regardless of what the bylaws say.

Member Meetings:

  • Cancel a meeting of the members with notice given in any practicable manner.
  • Permit members to vote in person or by proxy, even if the bylaws do not allow proxy voting. Any member voting by proxy shall be considered present for purposes of meeting a quorum.
  • Allow members to participate in a members’ meeting by remote participation, even if not physically present at the meeting. Members will be treated as present for a remote meeting if:
    • Reasonable measures are implemented to verify that each participant is in fact a member (or the holder of a valid proxy);
    • Members are given a reasonable opportunity to participate in the meeting and to vote on matters submitted, including an opportunity to read or hear the proceedings of the meeting substantially currently with such proceedings, pose questions, and make comments, regardless of whether the members can simultaneously communicate with each other; and
    • Votes or other actions taken remotely are adequately documented and records retained.

To Note:

  • Boards Must Authorize Actions – This new law does not automatically provide this flexibility, but instead authorizes the board to permit it. Thus, for example, if the members of a nonprofit want to meet remotely, the board must first authorize that pursuant to Section 16 of Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020. A nonprofit corporation with members must notify the members, as soon as reasonably practicable, of any actions taken by the board under Section 16.
  • Check the Articles of Organization – While Section 16 allows a board to override (temporarily) a nonprofit’s current bylaws, it does not allow a board to override the nonprofit’s Articles of Organization. Accordingly, it is important to confirm that nothing in the Articles would prevent what the board is seeking to authorize under Section 16.
  • Limited Time – The board may take the actions described above only during the current state of emergency and 60 days thereafter. If the board and/or the members are concerned about how they will operate effectively after that time, they should consider taking advantage of this opportunity to make structural changes to accommodate long-term remote participation, such as amending the bylaws to allow proxy voting by members and to confirm that directors may participate in board meetings by Zoom or teleconference.

Brad Bedingfield is Chair of the Nonprofit Group at Hemenway & Barnes LLP. Brad assists private foundations and public charities with navigating complex tax regulations and procedures, including receipt and disposition of complex charitable gifts and participation in innovative forms of impactful philanthropy.

Eleanor Evans is counsel at Hemenway & Barnes and a member of the firm’s Nonprofit Group.   She has over 20 years’ experience representing nonprofit organizations in a diverse range of legal, governance and compliance matters.

Our Shared Sector: Why Nonprofits Should Center Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By YW Boston

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Physical distancing policies established to help flatten the COVID-19 curve have unearthed the disparate impact that this pandemic has on employees within the same organization. Some staff cannot work from home. Others, whose primary responsibilities relate to direct service, face increased safety risks. Many parents, especially women and women of color, are juggling childcare and eldercare responsibilities while still putting in a full day’s work.

As soon as Americans became worried about COVID-19, we saw an increase in physical and verbal assaults against Asians and Asian Americans. Studies show that ecological threats exacerbate people’s prejudice against perceived outsiders and economic downturns increase prejudice against people of color. When a majority of our population gives into this “scarcity Mindset”, those with fewer resources are hit the hardest. Nonprofit organizations must stay vigilant to ensure equitable outcomes. We are already seeing how this pandemic disproportionately affects low-resource and at-risk families. For instance, many part-time and hourly-wage workers’ hours are being cut dramatically, while others are being laid off. As we see this pandemic cause a widespread economic downturn, we need to recognize how structural racism causes more severe consequences for people of color. Inequality persists during recessions, including the fact that as unemployment rose in the last recession, the severity of workplace discrimination did, too. Times of global uncertainty and fear can trigger automatic responses such as implicit bias.

Nonprofits may be facing additional hardships due to interruptions to programming and fundraising. Yet it is as important as ever for nonprofits to maintain their people-centered approach. We must prioritize ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our own employees and constituents. Leaders should avoid making assumptions and provide appropriate support to employees. Although we are going through a shared experience as a nation and as organizations, not everyone shares the same access to resources and safety nets. Being an inclusive leader during times of uncertainty requires flexibility, transparency, and proactive communication.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. As part of that work, we are helping organizations become socially connected while physically distant.

Nonprofit 411: Engaging Major Donors During Coronavirus

Nonprofit 411 Roger Magnus-minBy Diane Remin, MajorDonors.com

Let’s start by considering what donors want under normal circumstances. In her landmark, research-based book, Donor-Centered Fundraising (2003), author Penelope Burk, lays it out for us on page 10:

  1. Prompt, personalized acknowledgement of their gifts
  2. Confirmation that their gifts have been set to work as intended
  3. Measurable results on their gifts at work prior to be asked for another contribution

Donors want to know what you are doing with their money—and, as time goes by, what their gift accomplished. Additionally, they want to be thanked right away and personally. That hasn’t changed!

What is happening now—and what are the implications?

  • Uncertainty has increased. Trustworthiness has never been more important.
  • Distraction has increased. Donors need to be reminded about why your work is important.
  • You can’t visit with donors in-person. In these times, use the phone and, preferably, videoconferencing (e.g. Zoom, Skype, FaceTime)
  • There may be financial issues. Listen carefully—don’t presume. Be prepared to be flexible, e.g., re-negotiate pledge schedules. Take care of your donors!

How to engage your major donors: permission-based conversations.

I always feel a bit silly when I talk about a permission-based approach. Why? Because it is so obvious once you hear it. You are literally asking the donor for permission to take each step. Absent permission, stop and set-up the next check-in.

Step 1: Pick up the phone and check-in: How is the donor doing? This question has new significance amidst Covid-19. How are they, their family, how are they dealing with staying home, etc. Listen, listen, listen. If the donor is not doing well, stop, help if you can, and agree on another call an appropriate time down the road.

Step 2: Get permission to discuss what your organization is doing in response to COVID-19. Literally, “Can we talk about what [nonprofit] is doing in response to COVID-19?” Make this a discussion by including the donor: How does that strike you? Is this making sense? Do you have any thoughts about this?

Step 3: If the donor is engaged, get permission to talk about the funding plan: “Would it be OK if I share the funding plan with you now?” You are getting permission to talk about money. For this part of the conversation, you’ll need a funding plan:

  • A dollar goal (think of this as a campaign)—On the phone, this sounds like: “We are looking to raise $X to [highlight key point or two most relevant to donor].”
  • A leadership giving chart with the number of gifts at each level. On the phone, simply describe a leadership giving range: “We are looking for leadership gifts in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.” Tip: Consider asking one or two top donors for lead, matching gift(s) that total 50% of the goal.
  • Gift impact examples tied to the various leadership giving levels. On the phone, you’ll mention one or two that coincide with the donor’s likely giving level.

Step 4: Give the donor the opportunity to help.

It is a myth that major donors won’t give or that you should leave your donors alone. Quite the contrary! Previous crises tell us that donors want to hear from you, know that you care, learn what you are doing, and help if they can.

Our Shared Sector: Three Ways to Prepare for Successful Inclusion Strategies

By YW Boston

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YW Boston has been working to advance racial and gender equity and build more inclusive environments for over 150 years. Today, YW Boston’s InclusionBoston program has partnered with over 100 organizations to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and create lasting cultural change. As part of this work, YW Boston partners with industry leaders to share insights and discuss successful strategies. We sat down with the Executive Director of The Urban Labs and EVP Chief Experience and Culture Officer at Berkshire Bank Malia Lazu to learn about her insights into how organizations can prepare for and successfully implement diversity and inclusion strategies.

Here are three implementation strategies for nonprofits from our conversation with Malia Lazu:

Don’t rush into action

Nonprofits are looking for lasting change, so they are eager to see results. It is important to remember that inclusive spaces are not built overnight. As Malia Lazu explained, “First you have to focus on building the relationships you need to get where you want to go. We need to build different kinds of relationships and that takes time.”

Hiring diverse candidates should not be the first step

First, focus on figuring out why you have not been able to attract and retain a diverse team. Malia highlights the importance of this prep work, “You want to do that internally. You don’t want to have folks telling on you on Twitter or Glassdoor.” This likely includes ensuring that you have equitable policies and have put effort into making sure all employees feel included. Learn more about the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion in our previous article and how to work toward each here.

Encourage leaders and team members to work towards being better allies privately

When we talk about systemic change, we often forget that people make up systems. We are the product of systems and we all have work to do when it comes to deconstructing our personal biases and presumptions. Ally-ship is critical to the success of diversity and inclusion efforts. As Malia offered, “A good ally should read and educate themselves on as many diverse experiences as possible. Allow vulnerability and be open to it.” As the saying goes, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and we should not expect others to do the work for us.

About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Nonprofit 411: How Can Prospect Research Make a Difference for My Nonprofit?

Nonprofit 411 Roger Magnus-minBy Roger Magnus, Owner at Roger Magnus Research

OVERVIEW

Prospect or development research is useful for nonprofit philanthropic efforts but has its limitations. It involves conducting research and analysis to find out more about individual donors, foundations (private, community, and corporate), and government grants (not discussed here). Nonprofits vary greatly in their funding mix among these three major sources.

In particular, research may help to figure out more accurately how much money to ask for from donors or foundations. This is done by learning more about their potential philanthropic capacity based on estimated wealth /assets and giving history. Note that philanthropic capacity and how much to ask for are not the same thing as the latter is affected by other variables such as the relationship a donor has with your organization. A donor’s estimated wealth range is usually gleaned from data about this person’s real estate, charitable contributions, and current employment (if salary is known or can be estimated for groups such as public company and nonprofit top executives and directors, government employees, celebrities, and business owners). Some donors have additional wealth factors such as serving on a family foundation, owning a plane or yacht, or being an “insider” holding public company stock as an executive, director, or large shareholder. Research can also find business or volunteer relationships between a donor or foundation and your nonprofit’s employees/board as well as a donor’s biographical information, interests/hobbies, employment history, giving philosophy, and even potential conflicts of interest that may cause your nonprofit to stop requesting or accepting money from this donor. The findings will normally be analyzed and summarized in a donor or foundation profile which can vary in length, detail, and sequence.

Some variables that research CANNOT find include anonymous donors, a donor’s bank account balance or credit history, many donors’ exact salaries or stock holdings, and, if they own a Donor Advised Fund, its assets and donations.

RESOURCES

Finding this information may be aided by having access to subscription databases such as LexisNexis, DonorSearch, IWave, Foundation Directory Online, and many others.

Below are some additional FREE websites that may also be helpful:

  • CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS – DS Giving Search Tool (DonorSearch) – dsgiving.com/ – Searches charitable and political gifts by name and state.
  • EMPLOYMNENT SALARY DATA
    • FederalPay.Org – Federal government employee salary data.
    • Nonprofit 990 forms (see below).
    • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – sec.gov – Search forms DEF 14A, 3,4, and 5, 13 for executive, board member, and large shareholders salaries/stock holdings.
  • NONPROFITS/FOUNDATIONS –
  • REAL ESTATE VALUATIONS
    • Tax assessor Database – pulawski.net/ – A listing of various local tax assessor sites broken down by states. Some links may be incorrect, and if so try a Google search on that assessor site to find updated Web address.
    • Zillow.com – Search by address, city, or zip
  • RELATIONSHIPS -LittleSis – littlesis.org
  • VARIOUS – Wealth Open Data Dashboard – sgrimes.shinyapps.io/WealthDashboard/ – Helpful lists (Billionaires, political giving, SEC insiders, Doctors and Dentists, etc. ) useful for donor research

Why Inclusive Nonprofits Should Consider a “Culture Add” Over a “Culture Fit”

By YW Boston

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When nonprofits interview a potential employee, they are not just looking at their skills and past experiences. Often, teams look for a sense of how an interviewee would work with existing staff and whether they hold the values of the organization. This evaluation is often branded as a search for a “culture fit” – as in, “Does this person fit into the existing culture of our organization?”

Forbes recommends looking for “culture fit” candidates because, as they explain, “we can always provide the resources and tools to help employees get better at their jobs, but we can’t teach someone to align with our cultural values.” Each organization has their own language, processes, and customs. Many people believe that a new employee who is a “fit” will be easily onboarded into this culture, leading to increased employee satisfaction and reduced employee turnover.

“Culture Fit” is flawed

A number of sources that speak of “culture fit,” such as Forbes and Business News Daily, recognize that the concept can be harmful if employed incorrectly. As Forbes explains, “What it doesn’t mean is overlooking different cultures and lifestyles, or dismissing personal values you don’t agree with.” However, when a hiring team becomes very focused on cultural fit, they will be more likely to hire those who are familiar to them. Even if unconsciously, hiring teams make judgements based on who they believe would be the easiest to train or get to know, often choosing those similar to them.

“Culture Fit” may be hurting your organization

With each individual hire, these trends may not be obvious, but they build over time. This leads to a lack of diversity within an organization, which can stifle its success. As McKinsey & Company reported in Diversity Matters, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile. Those in the top quartile for racial diversity are 33% more likely to outperform. Their research demonstrates that hiring bias’s effect on office diversity has large ramifications. A homogenous workplace culture (whether it be homogenous on racial, gender, or experience) can lead to groupthink and the team may have a more difficult time finding solutions.

Instead, focus on “Culture Add”

All of this is not to say that hiring committees should get rid of any attempts to examine how a candidate may work with the organization’s culture. Rather than “culture fit,” consider seeking someone who would be a “culture add” to the workplace. As Beamery explains it, “culture add” requires asking: “What can a candidate bring to the table that will add to your culture and help move it in the right direction?” Focusing on hiring a “culture add” reorients the task by asking your hiring team to perform pre-work that will set you up for success. Before hiring a new candidate, the team should examine: What perspectives are we missing from our work? Where are we looking to grow as an organization? Then, after accepting that employees can and should help your nonprofit’s culture evolve, there must be processes in place to allow this to happen. This means fostering an inclusive workplace where employees are recognized for the unique perspectives and skills they bring to the work.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

Nonprofit 411: 15 Governance Best Practices for Nonprofit Boards

By Greg Rogers, Senior Audit Manager at Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C.

Individuals choose to get involved with nonprofit boards for a variety of reasons such as a passion for a charity’s mission, a desire to give back, a commitment to enhance one’s experience, or a pursuit of new business opportunities. Whatever the reason, those individuals frequently do not fully understand their fiduciary responsibilities when they volunteer to serve on a nonprofit board.

Nonprofit board members play a vital role in the philanthropic landscape of society – they are tasked with a duty of care and a duty of loyalty as stewards of funds raised for public benefit. Boards must exercise prudent decision-making and do what is best for the organization to preserve the integrity of the nonprofit. To this end, every nonprofit board should consider these 15 governance best practices:

  1. Boards should meet at least three times per year with no more than one of those meetings held via conference call (if board members’ locations allow).
  2. Every board should have a minimum of five voting members. Ideally, no more than one voting board member should be compensated.
  3. Term limits should be set to promote board member engagement and board effectiveness.
  4. All boards should establish a nominating committee charged with recruiting directors that are diverse and passionately committed to serving the charity’s mission.
  5. Boards should establish an audit committee tasked with hiring a CPA firm and communicating with its CPA firm on an ongoing basis to ensure all financial reporting matters warranting concern are address in a timely manner.
  6. Boards should regularly evaluate the performance of the executive director and set his/her compensation annually through an objective analysis.
  7. Board members should attend board meetings and meetings of subcommittees they sit on to ensure they can make informed decisions about all matters requiring board votes.
  8. All board members should disclose conflicts of interest at least annually. Boards should verify that conflicts of interest between the charity and a board member or a member of management are not material.
  9. Boards should ensure an orientation process is in place for new directors.
  10. Board members should work with management to ensure adequate internal controls over financial reporting are in place, including a segregation of duties to promote accurate financial reporting and mitigate fraud risk.
  11. Nonprofit boards should approve the organization’s budget prior to the beginning of the fiscal year and continuously monitor budget versus actual results throughout the year.
  12. Nonprofit boards should approve the annual audit, including the financial statements and any other reports discussing internal control matters or comments for management consideration.
  13. Nonprofit boards should ensure the IRS Form 990 is reviewed and approved by the full board.
  14. Nonprofit boards should ensure all governance policies recommended by the IRS are formally adopted by the board.
  15. Boards should take measures to minimize the personal liability of directors in the event of organizational insolvency.

Nonprofit 411: What Does Growth Mean for Your Nonprofit Organization?

Nonprofit 411 Pear Associates (1)-minBy Alison Glastein Gray, Founder and President, Pear Associates

In my role as a consultant, I work with many organizations as they consider growing…but growing can mean different things to different organizations.

Growth may mean serving new markets –geographies and populations — with the same program or service you currently offer. Growth may mean bringing a new program to your current client base or community. Or growth may mean increasing your market share by bringing your proven model to more people or more communities. And for some, growth may involve all of the above.

No matter how your organization may be thinking about growth, there are several factors to consider.

First, consider why growth is significant for your constituents and clients. Are there service gaps that you can fill for them? Could you serve more clients with more staff or additional locations?

Next, think about why growth is essential for your employees. Are you providing a workplace with new and exciting challenges? Is there a career path that will keep your employees engaged and retained?

Also, take into account why growth is vital for the communities and neighborhoods where you are based. Could you bring new resources into your communities with growth? Are there populations within your communities who could benefit from additional programs?

Finally, reflect on what you risk by not growing. Will your clients miss out or go elsewhere? Will you lose employees? Will you be left behind as your competition grows?

Once your organization has determined that growth is necessary, I recommend the following action steps:

  1. Do your homework

You can learn more about your marketplace and competition by conducting an environmental scan of other nonprofit organizations in your area, and also by reviewing publicly available data to determine current needs and trends. You can also understand your constituency by conducting surveys or focus groups and by relying on anecdotal feedback to enhance any quantitative data you have obtained. Finally, consider the political and economic landscape that you are functioning in to determine how this may impact your growth.

  1. Cultivate Partnerships

Partnerships can help your organization to expand your reach, leverage resources, and obtain new clients and constituents. Partners may be community-based organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, or schools. As a first step, you may want to establish an informal partnership through networking and sharing of information. Once trust is built and you determine areas of alignment, you can develop formal [partnerships through data-sharing agreements and memoranda of understanding.

  1. Engaging in a Business Planning Process

You will want to create a roadmap as you embark on growth. Think about your short-term, action-focused goals. What will it cost to set up if a program? What will it cost to operate the program? What resources (staff, capital, knowledge) will you need to make this happen?

  1. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Once you expand your current model, you will want to inform your audience. Think about your crucial organization and program-specific messages you wish to promote. Consider the channels you will use to promote your growth, such as social media, paid advertising, or leveraging your thought leadership. You may need to brand your new services or make sure they align with your current branding to ensure consistency.

No matter how you embark on growth, consider this exploration as an opportunity to be thoughtful and aspirational. You will be fruitful if you know WHY you are expanding and HOW you will expand.