In this video I’m going to share with you seven mistakes I made starting a nonprofit organization and how do you can avoid them! I’m Amber Melanie Smith and I help aspiring change makers with tips and strategies to change the world and live a life of impact and purpose. When I started my nonprofit organization several years ago I knew next to nothing about how to get an organization successfully started and keep it going. I’d done some volunteering and work with nonprofit organizations in small ways nut I could only guess at what it was going to take to really get this thing off the ground and keep it going to do what I ultimately wanted to do – which was make a big difference in my community. So, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. When I look back, I think that maybe knowledge and help in around 7 key areas could have helped me prevent years of struggling and setbacks with my nonprofit organization. So if you’re thinking of starting a nonprofit organization or you’ve just started one I’m hoping that you can benefit from the mistakes that I made so that you can get down to the business of your organization and and ultimately get back to what you really care about – the whole reason you wanted to start a non profit in the first place – changing the world! Here are seven mistakes that I made starting a non-profit and how you can avoid them: The first mistake I made was not having a clear end vision for our organization. When we first started out I had this vague notion that I wanted people to be kind to each other and I wanted them to go help all these causes in our community. But it was too vague and it didn’t really show who we were and what we were all about clearly enough to inspire people to want to get involved and know HOW to get involved. When you set out to start a nonprofit organization, you should have one goal. And that is this: To put yourself out of business. What I mean by that is that you should have a vision that is very clear and specific So that when you accomplish that vision You know that you have done what you set out to do as a nonprofit organization and there’s no longer a need for your nonprofit to exist because you accomplished what you set out to accomplish and you can go on and use your amazing time and talents and resources on solving the next big problem that the world is facing. So in order to accomplish this you need to have a clear idea of what success looks like for your organization. Do you want to do a quick check to make sure your end game vision is clear for your new nonprofit organization? Try this: Close your eyes and imagine that you wake up tomorrow, and the world has changed how you wanted to change it. What does the world look like now? Your answers should be clear and specific. A great example might be something like there’s no more homelessness in North Carolina. Then you can use this statement as the foundation for your organization’s vision statement. Your vision statement should be even more clear and specific and add measurable goals. For example, our vision is the eradication of hunger in North Carolina by 2030. If you’re unable to craft a clear specific vision for your organization You might face a lot of challenges getting other people involved, to support your cause. After all, if they don’t know exactly where you’re going, how can they follow? By not starting with this clear vision, We weren’t forced to think through that endgame and the specific strategic steps It was going to take to accomplish it which caused us a lot of headaches that I hope you’ll be able to avoid. The next mistake I made was not thinking through our revenue model like a business. A lot of people have this misconception that nonprofits somehow can’t make money or can’t generate revenue but in fact nonprofits are basically a business and you need to be able to generate revenue in a sustainable way to Keep them going and to accomplish your ultimate vision of making a difference in the world. When we were first starting out I had this misconception as well to a degree. I Thought that grants would just magically appear people would be inspired by our awesome spirit for our cause. But even professional grant writers know that you can’t really rely on grants to fund your organization and the most successful sustainable Nonprofits have a diverse way of raising money and generating revenue to keep themselves afloat. So it’s really vital to think of other ways that your nonprofit can generate revenue Individual donations is a huge source of funding that organizations can really tap into as well as earned income. I’ll definitely plan to cover more of those things in future videos. Once I started thinking like a Business and thinking more clearly through our revenue models for our nonprofit organization our budget Quadrupled within four years and as a result I was able to come on full-time to do this work that I love. We were even able to bring on a few more staff and Get our own office for the first time ever, which allowed us to make an even bigger impact On the community because of that increased capacity. I know it sucks to have to think of the business side of things. We just want to go out and make a difference – I get it I totally get it. But if you can do this – if you can think through the different revenue models and different Potential opportunities to raise funding for your cause – you’re going to be able to make a much bigger impact. And I know that helps me sleep at night. The third mistake I made was not Understanding the value of a brand and we were first starting out we didn’t know what a brand even was or how it related to our logo, our marketing, our language, our general way of Talking to people. We had no idea. When we were starting out We literally decided on our organization’s name by flipping through a thesaurus and finding words we thought were cool! It didn’t work out. The first name for our organization was some Acronym that was really hard to remember. It was really hard to spell and to say and Ultimately, the news got it wrong. We couldn’t even get the domain name for our organization’s name. It was just a huge mess because of this decision that we made early on that we thought was no big deal, We constantly were not being able to be found by people who might have needed our services and our help. We missed out on hundreds, maybe even thousands, of potential volunteers, donors, and other supporters just because we picked an ill-fitting name. So five years after starting, we finally Rebranded. Our board of directors got together and we thought really hard about Everything that we wanted the community to think about and feel about our organization – from the name, to the colors we were going to use, to the general spirit of the graphics that we were going to use in our logo. We decided we wanted people to feel excited and energized and ready to take action whenever they encountered our Organization or its brand. So we came up with a fresh name, a fresh logo, and new marketing language to support that new brand. We definitely made sure that the name that we chose had an available domain name and social media handles too and within just a year or Two of us rebranding we went from a pool of just a couple hundred volunteers and supporters a couple thousand. The fourth mistake we made was not staying laser focused on our mission. When you’re first getting started with a nonprofit Organization. It’s totally common to feel excited and even validated when people come to you with new ideas and new opportunities that they think you might be interested in but maybe aren’t exactly the right fit for your organization in terms of staying focused on your mission. This was definitely a mistake that I made especially is starting my nonprofit while I hadn’t finished college yet. I was really Excited when people who were more experienced with many more years in nonprofits and in the social impact world came to me and Introduced me to different opportunities or events that they thought I should get involved in So I was saying yes to pretty much everything that came my way. But the problem with that was that it meant I was getting distracted from my ultimate goal and that meant that every time I said yes to all of those things as Exciting as they seemed at the time, I was saying no to my organization’s specific mission. Staying laser focused is advice that you hear a lot in business – and it totally applies to nonprofits. If you want to be able to do something big like end homelessness or Put a stop to hunger, or stopping human Trafficking, or whatever the cause that’s important to you might be, you’ve got to stay focused on that and really consider every opportunity that comes along and ask yourself – “Is this Opportunity going to help me accomplish this end vision?” If the answer is no, You can say no. It’s okay. You’re not being mean when you say no, and there are definitely polite ways of declining opportunities in a way that keeps those Relationships intact while allowing you to stay focused on the vision that you set out to accomplish. The fifth mistake I made was not having clear expectations For board members and volunteers. I’ll talk a little bit more about this in future videos. But as you might know in order to start a nonprofit organization You have to form a Board of Directors, Which is a group of volunteer leaders who come together to take legal and fiscal responsibility Over your organization and keep things running, and show leadership, and set strategic vision for your cause. Making sure that you recruit the right people for your board of directors is a critical piece to having a successful organization. Not just during launch, but during your ongoing Sustainability as a non-profit as well. When I was first starting out with my nonprofit Organization. I did not really know where to go out and recruit Effective board members. And on top of that, I didn’t really know how to clearly define board expectations and the types of roles that I was hoping volunteer board members could fill. So even if I did know where to find them, I wouldn’t be able to successfully recruit them Because they wouldn’t know what I expected of them or what types of skillsets I was looking for. When you set out to Recruit a board of directors or even any group of volunteers, it’s really important to have a set of clear Expectations before you begin. So you want to think about the strategic goals of your organization within that year or even a Three-year period and then work backwards from that. If your goal, for example, is to raise a hundred thousand dollars for your organization or To reach ten thousand people in your community through an awesome marketing campaign Then you want to think about what types of skill sets are going to be required in order to accomplish those goals. So in this case, fundraising, someone with marketing experience, or public relations experience. You’re going to want to make sure that those skill sets and the specific roles that you need are clearly defined as well as your Expectations for how those people are going to behave in your organization. What type of time commitment is expected? Is this a two-year board term? Is it a three-year board term? How many hours per month might you expect board members or any volunteer to have to commit to your Organization in order to accomplish the goals that you all have set out to accomplish? So you want to make sure that all of these things are not left to chance and not something that can be guessed at. You want to define them right from the get-go and write them on a Document so that people will know what they’re signing up for when they apply to be on your board of directors. That way you’re weeding out the people who might not be the best fit for your organization right from the get-go and everyone who applies hopefully, having read the description of what you’re looking for and Expectations will be able to confidently say, Yes, I can fulfill these expectations. So when you recruit them, you know, you’ve got a great fit. The sixth mistake that I made was trying to do everything myself as a founder. It can be really hard. You have this sense of the vision for your organization. You have an idea of exactly What you want to accomplish. But if you don’t allow other people to take ownership of some aspects of the organization it’s not gonna grow very fast and It’s not going to be sustainable if something happens to you or you decide it’s time to move on. This was definitely something difficult for me to learn. I am a little bit “Type A”, so it took me many years actually to become a pretty good delegator. And I’m still working on it! But you can create an environment and a structure that allows you to trust people to be able to take on responsibilities for your organization and to competently complete tasks for your cause. How you do that is by working as a team to develop the strategic vision and the strategic plan for your organization. You can set the strategic plan over a year or set of multiple years, But the key is to work backwards and to break it down into small chunks With action steps and timelines within each chunk so that you know exactly what steps it’s going to take to reach those strategic goals and The deadlines that you can expect other people on your team and yourself To be able to meet in order to stay on task. By working together to create the strategic plan You can be more confident that everyone is on the same page as you in terms of what really needs to get done to meet the goals of your organization. Then, you can get down to the delegating by figuring out who has the correct skill sets to Effectively complete that activity on the strategic plan Better than anyone else. That person takes ownership of it and they’re gonna feel a sense of pride that they get to own that piece of the plan, too. The seventh, and final, and probably the biggest mistakes that I made starting a nonprofit organization is Thinking that things are gonna happen overnight. The reality is Social change and making a big impact in the world takes a long time I promise if you stick to it – You have a vision; you treat your organization like a business; you allow others to take leadership and ownership over aspects of the organization – Then you’re going to make a difference. It’s going to happen. That’s it for now! Thanks so much for watching I really hope that you learned something that will help you in your own efforts to make a difference in the world because the world Really really needs people like you. 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