A Look at the 7 Essential Elements of Being a Scalable, Innovative Nonprofit & Why They’re Important

Identifying your core values and foundation is essential for the success of your nonprofit. While there are seven core elements necessary to understand your organization, only 11% of nonprofits excel at all seven, and more than 80% struggle with at least one. Make sure your organization knows and can clearly define each element to ensure future stability and viability.

1. A clear and focused mission

According to the Engine of Impact survey, 18% of organizations struggle with clearly defining their mission. Research shows that more focused companies outperform less-focused companies. Why? People cannot support an organization if their mission is unclear, abstract, or not compelling. Once people understand and share your passion, you will be able to recruit partners, supporters, and community members.

2. A sound strategy

38% of organizations struggle with establishing a foundational strategy. Your strategy is your set of steps to help you achieve your mission. You can have a marketing/communication strategy to assess how you plan to spread your brand and organization around. You can also have a funding strategy to manage your donations, grants, and other forms of income. Strategy is not merely planning -- it is your business model as an organization that ensures the viability of your mission.  Strategy is dynamic, because the communities nonprofits service are ever changing.

3. Impact evaluation

A whopping 50% of nonprofits struggle with using metrics to measure impact. Conducting regular evaluations to assess your impact can be beneficial to see if your strategy is working if your mission is on track. With constant feedback from evaluations, your organization can thrive and grow.

4. Insight and courage in decision making

Insight is a distinct and compelling vision of how social change can arise. Courage is the strategic leadership that ensures insight translates to reality. Courage is needed to act on the initial innovative insight, stay focused on the mission, implement a strategy, and conduct impact evaluation. It is necessary for nonprofits to have strong leaders with both insight and courage.

5. High-performing culture and talent

Access to engaged employees is vital to the success of nonprofits. Having a strong network of employees who believe in the mission of the organization will benefit the entire community. Since nonprofits cannot offer the kinds of compensation that for-profit businesses can offer, it is oftentimes difficult to maintain a high-performing staff. If you hire the right people, you won’t have to worry about incentivizing unmotivated staff members.  

6. Sustainable and directed funding

While funding is extremely vital to measuring a nonprofits success, it is also a major challenge. Over 52% of organizations struggle with it. You can gain new donors by running a lean event, reaching out via social media, or suggesting current donors invite potential donors to your events. Donors can bring additional benefits such as expertise, leadership, and access to networks. When meeting with new donors, master the ask -- the process of asking a specific donor for money to support your organization. When making the ask, be specific in how you will use the donation money and how the donated funds will help your mission.

7. Exceptional board members

56% of nonprofits struggle with board governance. An effective board will draw on a myriad of engaged, curious, and impact-driven members to guide top-level decision making. Each nonprofit board member has a responsibility to give money and participate in fundraising activities. You should aim to attract board members who bring at least one of the critical assets of work, wisdom, or wealth to the table.“Nonprofit boards should reflect the diversity of the societies in which they operate.” Evaluate and sustain your board with term limits, and a governance committee to evaluate each board member.

If your nonprofit fully understands each of these seven elements of stability, you will be even more well-positioned to scale your impact.