Many nonprofit leaders think adding new programs and services makes them more competitive. They try to imitate the latest trends they see other nonprofits following, jumping on almost any new bandwagon. They mistakenly believe doing more will mean getting more from their supporters and attracting new segments of clients.
The problem with “more-is-better thinking” is, it usually ends up creating mission drift in your organization and saps your nonprofit’s ability to maintain doing what you already do well. Take a look at what your organization does, can you explain it in a few seconds, or do you need 45 minutes and a nonprofit jargon dictionary to describe it? If that’s the case, then maybe you are doing too much.
You can distinguish yourself from your competition better by doing less and doing it better than anyone else. You can make a bigger impact by taking the leading role in your niche, by “owning” your category. You can niche-slap your competition. Instead of trying to tread water in a sea of other nonprofits who are also thrashing water trying to stay afloat, you can make contact with a smaller niche that’s easier to reach using guerrilla tactics anyway. When you know your niche, your organization will become more effective at reaching people and they will become more responsive to your higher quality programs and services. So, define your niche instead of expanding what you offer.
Five benefits of having a clearly defined niche:
1. Builds a stellar reputation for your organization. When people in your target think of your organization, they will think of how well you fit their needs and how blessed they are in having contact with your nonprofit. Think of the Special Olympics, they have a clearly defined niche. Ask anyone involved with Special Olympics, they will tell you they hold a deep reverence for the reputation of that organization. As they should.
2. Separates your organization apart from others. If your organization is known for making a difference by doing a narrowly defined task, your nonprofit becomes the kind donors and volunteers notice and want to support. There are many kinds of housing development charities, but there is only one Habitat for Humanity.
3. Gives more access to the target audience. When you become an expert in the needs of a concentrated group, doors start to open to deeper relationships in that community. A nonprofit museum for the blind would interest the blind and others who serve the blind community. They would be more likely to recommend the blind-focused nonprofit, and may even share data about their clients with a trusted blind museum organization.
4. Brings almost instant credibility: Your knowledge of the community’s needs and the credibility that comes from your reputation causes the target audience to trust you more readily. When your organization builds credibility in your niche, you could become the default authority about the group you serve. Marriage health counselors might be able to help couples of all kinds, but military couples may be more likely to listen to the advice of a military marriage counselor. When stress on the marriages of military couples makes the news, who will reporters call for an expert opinion?
5. Clarifies your tasks. Instead of multiplying the number of things your organization does, you develop a sharp focus on a limited number of tasks and become a stronger organization. The keen focus leads you to become increasingly better at what you do. Who is better at rescuing Labrador Retrievers? A dog rescue nonprofit, or a Labrador Retriever Rescue? Since Labradors are the most popular breed of dogs, that nonprofit would help a lot of dogs.