I’ve worked with several nonprofits over the years. Many are filled with devoted, talented people who love their work and mission, and a big part of their payment is the joy they get from making a difference in people’s lives.
Nonprofits are no less businesses just because of their nonprofit status. In fact, the best nonprofits know they are involved in sales. Here’s what their leaders do.
They prospect strategically
Donors are key to the success of many nonprofits. However, finding donors to give of their time and money can be challenging since people are so busy today. You could randomly prospect for donors and supporters, but that’s not a good idea. A better idea would be to find businesses that could complement your nonprofit.
Here’s an example: A complementary business for a local food bank would be a garden supply store. The garden supply store could support the work of the food bank through donations of seeds, plants, and training in order to create a community garden. The food bank would get more food for its clients, and the garden supply store would get publicity and good will from employees and the community.
They are organized
Most organizations have regularly scheduled fundraising events. While each one of these events may have a different theme, the process of putting together the event does not change from year to year, and the activities are often the same. This sounds just like a sales process.
Here are just a few of the actions that repeat for nonprofits: You select your chairs both honorary and formal; you select committee chairs; you find a venue; you arrange entertainment; you plan the meal; you find sponsors and advertisers; you sell tables; you print programs; you organize the silent auction; etc. Each one of these activities has a process to ensure its success, and the activities are the same each year unless there’s a need for a new committee.
You can always tell who the talented leaders are: Good leaders keep everything on file. They have a timeline for each activity and know what needs to happen and when. They can quickly bring up spreadsheets with totals from each category. They can reference the cost of meals for the last five years as well as tell you the numbers of people who attended past events and the amount of money raised. What’s unacceptable is when a salaried professional is unable to work this way.
They respect their board’s time
Meetings with both board members and salaried employees need to be productive and mirror what happens at good sales meetings. This means that meetings should start on time and end on time, and an agenda should be sent out before the meeting so board members can prepare what they plan to contribute ahead of time.
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A good leader will plan the agenda for a meeting thoughtfully, including approximate times for each discussion item so that the meeting isn’t rushed and doesn’t go over time. A good leader will also send out information before a meeting so volunteers’ time isn’t wasted reviewing materials during the meeting.
They give credit to others
A good leader knows their job requires getting other people to excel, and a good sales manager will show appreciation for a job well done to keep salespeople motivated. Volunteers are especially important for nonprofits because they’re not getting a salary; instead they need to be recognized and thanked. A good leader knows how to thank volunteers in a way that encourages them to continue to donate their time.