Size Matters

When you look around your community at all of the for-profit, nonprofit, and government agencies, your nonprofit is probably smaller than the average organization. Are you taking advantage of what your size has to offer?

Almost every community is changing. How is your community changing? Probably parts of the community are shrinking while other parts are growing. Each of the changes is also producing new opportunities and new threats. Are you taking advantage of the opportunities and taking steps to avoid the threats?

There must be a big opportunity to attract the attention of a big organization. The same is true of a threat. Unless the threat or opportunity has the potential to measurably effect the bottom line, management is well advised to ignore it.

As a result, large organizations are poor bell weathers for small organizations. When a threat is large enough to attract the attention of a large organization, it is big enough to imperil the survival of a small organization. Therefore, the survival and sustainability of small organizations depends on independently identifying threats while the threats are small. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the nonprofit board to notice small but meaningful external threats. Therefore, it is important for the nonprofit executive to be constantly watching for and discussing emerging threats with the board.

The converse is true of the emerging opportunities. Because the large organizations ignore the small opportunities, your nonprofit has an opportunity to capture the opportunity before you have to compete with others. Your smaller size also provides you with the flexibility to change processes easily (agility). Acting early also makes capturing the opportunity inexpensive.

As an early adopter of the opportunity, you also have the ability to ride the opportunity and let the opportunity drive the growth of your mission, keep your nonprofit relevant, and increase your nonprofit’s sustainability. Again, it is unlikely that your board will notice the opportunity when it is small and easy for your nonprofit to manage. Therefore, it is important for you to bring each opportunity to the board’s attention.

Next Step:

Frequently survey your external environment for opportunities and threats

Ask your board to help you evaluate each opportunity and threat

Develop, with the board’s assistance, indicators that will tell you when the opportunity or threat is worth your attention

Develop an action plan for the opportunities and threats that have become actionable

Leading organizations are the first to recognize threats and opportunities. Being a leading organization is more dependent on your leader’s ability to recognize threats and opportunities than the size of your reserve, growth in clients served, or increased donor generosity.


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