Is Your Nonprofit Programming Itself to Death?

One of the signs your nonprofit is in need of a nonprofit marketing make-over, is when programs  drive your  planning more than the ongoing measured impact your organization is having on the community.

What most nonprofits really need is not to launch another program. At least they shouldn’t if the programs become a distraction from achieving their mission.

In the for-profit sector, most businesses are more concerned about getting store traffic and making sales (programming) than they are at earning profits. Guerrillas are focused on profits, not sales. They are not concerned about the number of transactions they make, as much as they are focused on the amount of profits they make from their transactions. If a company is going broke, instead of asking whether they need to have another sale they should be asking how can they increase their profit margins.

This same truth can be applied in the nonprofit sector. You can keep busy creating new and interesting programs. But if what you are doing is not focused on the impact you are trying to make, your organization could be killing itself with activity. Is everything you are doing moving toward making an impact? Keep your organization from doing anything that lacks profitability for your mission and desired outcomes.

A nonprofit Guerrilla keeps a sharp eye on the real bottom line.

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    3 thoughts on “Is Your Nonprofit Programming Itself to Death?”

    1. Interesting comparison, Chris. I’ll bet there are plenty of nonprofit professionals who would take exception to this concept. They would say that their programs DO serve their communities and they are NOT a business, so the bottom line is not a issue.

      This really speaks to the paradigm shift that nonprofits are almost being forced to undergo, albeit, with a different set of terms. For many, the word, “business” is taboo and sets up a defensive response. Yes, I’m generalizing, but this is based on my own experience.

      I agree that organizations should be monitoring and evaluating their activities for community impact and alignment with the mission. I don’t understand why so many are eager to expand programs and services when they often struggle to maintain or build the ones they have. This speaks to their “heart” – the desire to do more for the people or cause they serve.

    2. Elaine, I think we are on the same page. What I am talking about is how the lack of focus many NPOs have keeps them from accomplishing their mission. In Guerrilla marketing, (and social marketing) nonprofits plan backwards from the stated outcomes they desire and keep a sharp focus on their intended mission in all their programming.

      As I talk about in the book, they need to apply what Good to Great Author, Jim Collins says in his monograph: Good to Great for the Social Sector, “A great organization is one that delivers superior performance and makes a distinct impact over time. For a business financial returns are a perfectly legitimate measure of performance. For a social sector organization, however, performance must be assessed relative to mission, not financial returns. In the social sectors, the critical question is not ‘How much money do we make per dollar invested?’ but “How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources.”

      In my opinion, too many organizations are focused on running their programs, yet not measuring the outcomes of all they are doing on their bottom line, their mission.

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