Why Your Organization Needs to Operate Like a Startup

At their essence, nonprofits and startups embody similarities that make them one in the same. With the same goals and mentality, it can be entirely beneficial for your organization to ditch the old-school nonprofit train of thought (we’ll go over that) and adopt a new way of thinking.

Before you throw a brick through your computer screen, I challenge your organization to hear me out. (I know how the concept of change works at traditional nonprofits.)

Why should you listen to us? Startup culture definitely has its appeal. At Nonprofit Hub, we’re even growing our own startup culture right now.

The Old Method—Do as Much with as Little as Possible (or Nothing)

Come on, guys. We’re tired of hearing that just because you’re a nonprofit organization, you shouldn’t be spending money on anything.

Dan Pallotta completely rocked the nonprofit sector with his Ted Talk—The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong—back in 2013. His theory is that too many nonprofits are rewarded for how little they’re spending. And we agree.

If you’re not putting anything into your NPO, how can you expect to get anything in return?

It would be great if everybody could understand this mentality. But they won’t. Ahem—the overhead myth, anybody?

So how can you combat the people who don’t think any money should be going into marketing and fundraising campaigns/efforts from the get-go? Education is the answer. Lincoln, our Senior Editor, suggested one way you could potentially educate specific donors.

Growth and Impact—The Same Goals

Chase Adam, founder of the NPO Watsi, summed up this nonprofit startup mentality perfectly for Forbes.

“All we focus on [is] growth and impact—at the end of the day, we just need to make the numbers go up and to the right,” Adam said.

Growth and impact are at the core of what every nonprofit is hoping to achieve. Maybe you have different motives than a startup, but it’s still the same. Startups are hoping to make money and grow their business to be successful. For your organization, success looks like increased fundraising dollars.

The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you that it’s worth it to operate in true startup fashion, you’ve got to get people to support your ideas. If you believe it, you need other people to see the reward. Everybody should have that vision.

It’s OK to take risks. It’s OK to spend money on fundraising and marketing efforts. In the long run, the risk could be worth the payoff.

What do you think? Will your organization be able to adopt the startup fashion, or do you have a strong argument for the traditional methods?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

January 12, 2015

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