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Giving Back to Your Community

Community support is the lifeblood of every nonprofit.  The community provides all of the donors, volunteers, clients, referral sources, and advocates.

Since the sustainability of every nonprofit depends on growth, every nonprofit’s survival depends on its ability to increase its support from its community.  One way to increase support is to expand the definition of community.  Another way to increase support is to attract more supporters from within the current community.

Both tactics for increasing support, and by extension your nonprofit’s sustainability, depend on the value a nonprofit provides those in the community.  The promise made by a nonprofit’s mission statement is one source of value.  Part of the value is keeping the promise.  The other part is growing.  Each year population growth and other factors increase the number of people in a community who need what a nonprofit promises.

The growth rate of a nonprofit determines its value.  When a nonprofit serves a larger percentage of those in need each year, its value to the community grows.  When it serves a smaller percentage, its value shrinks.  When it serves the same percentage of people, its value also shrinks.

To sustain its value to its community, a nonprofit must constantly grow faster than the community’s population growth.  Otherwise, it is unreasonable to expect the community to increase its support.  Without increasing support from the community, the nonprofit becomes unsustainable.

Economists tell us that after about three years, a community becomes dependent on a business.  The dependence is based upon the economic activity generated by the business (employment, taxes, goods and services, etc.).  From an economist’s point of view, every nonprofit is a business (employs people, creates valuable goods or services, etc.).  Since nonprofits lift people from poverty, help people find employment, educate children, etc. they often provide more durable value to their communities than other organizations.  Because of the number of people served by a nonprofit, its economic value can be significant.

After three years, a community becomes dependent on a nonprofit’s contribution to its vitality.  Therefore, the sustainability of your nonprofit is important to your community.

As community representatives, your board members have an obligation to your community to ensure that your nonprofit is highly sustainable.  This implies ensuring that your nonprofit provides your community with significant value:

Growing the number of people served faster than population growth

Increasing the percentage of clients who experience the promises of your mission statement each year (mission effectiveness)

Building the strength, vitality, and sustainability of your nonprofit each year to ensure your nonprofit will be serving your community for many years

Next Step:

Perform an objective assessment of your nonprofit’s value to your community

Develop a plan with measurable goals to increase the growth rate of your nonprofit, increase the effectiveness of your mission, and increase the sustainability of your nonprofit

Hold your board accountable for the success of the plan

Measure the success of your plan by the change in your community’s support

While it is the responsibility of the staff to execute the board’s plan, the board must create a realistic plan.  A realistic plan includes a funding strategy, resources, and attainable goals.  There must also be a communication strategy that gathers support and reports success in ways that the community values.

Is your nonprofit as sustainable and valuable as your community wants it to be?

Take It Further:

Remember your mission has emotional appeal but you must be able to demonstrate its value with statistics

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