Nonprofits operate in a unique space in the commercial world. A need for fiscal viability, combined with a largely volunteer staff and no widget to sell requires real creativity. A nonprofit can’t operate the same way a commercial business does, and the solutions for one don’t always work for the other. Here are some reasons business solutions don’t always help nonprofit boards, and what to do about it.
In a business, the idea of supply and demand governs almost everything. You have a good or service. Then, you determine the market price. Controlling overhead and improving quality set you apart from the competition. Consequently, the goals are simple (if incredibly difficult to achieve).
Nonprofit boards, as we all know, rely on fundraising to fund operations. Of course, you show value to your donors through the work that you do. However, there is no free market, in the way there is for a business. You can’t approach fundraising like a business approaches finances. On the other hand, your board can show direct impact to donors. It is crucial that you put in place ways to measure your results. If your programming is broad and community-oriented, keep careful records of the numbers and statistics related to your service. Capture before-and-after metrics. Gather testimonials from people your work impacts. Send surveys, take photos, quote volunteers, be creative in how your board shows donors your effects.
Perhaps the biggest difference between a nonprofit board and a business is that all your board members work for other companies. When you’re at work, everyone uses the same email provider, the same calendars, and the same document storage cloud. Members of a nonprofit board don’t have that convenience. Obviously, this disconnection makes communication and information sharing difficult.
It takes concerted effort to work around five different kinds of email and calendars to get anything done. Not to fear, you can overcome this with digital solutions, such as Boardable’s software. Portals like this provide a central place for everyone on the board to plan meetings, share documents, track tasks, and stay in touch. No more using business solutions for nonprofits! Boardable is especially for nonprofit boards.
The biggest difference in working with a nonprofit board versus a commercial board is that they are all volunteers. Business stakeholders have a vested interest in being engaged and working hard. How do you motivate nonprofit volunteers to give the same level of effort? Often, business solutions don’t work for nonprofits, because there is no financial incentive. You will need to find different methods for encouraging nonprofit board members to feel engaged.
Hopefully, nonprofit board members are committed to the mission itself. While that is a powerful motivator, you will need to do more. Use their time efficiently. Make sure meetings are succinct and productive. Board members aren’t hourly employees, so be concise. Hold everyone accountable to tasks so that initiatives move forward. Listen to everyone’s input. You want everyone to feel valued.
Remember, there are many methods you can use to differentiate your nonprofit board from a for-profit business. As long as you are respectful of your board members’ time and effort, you will get the engagement and accountability your mission deserves.
Interested in making your board of directors more productive through the use of technology? Boardable is a software platform that centralizes all communication between you and your board. Find the best meeting times, securely store documents, archive discussion threads, and more—all in one place. Click below to schedule a demo with a member of our Boardable team.