By: Melissa Reed
Nonprofit organizations are the lifeblood of the human spirit and the driving force of compassion in a world filled with a multitude of problems large and small
There seems to be two kinds of nonprofits, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Large nonprofits with national recognition that maintain offices across the nation tend to be more structured because they have built the required internal infrastructure, literature and policies that define how the organization is to be run. Commonly, program development, goals and campaigns are devised at the national level and filter down to the local offices. These large organizations typically generate large sums of working capital via donations from the public and private sector. As an organization grows, so does its human capital, project management capability and continuous expansions become common as more work both internal and external becomes possible. The benefits of growing an organization to the national and even international level is obvious; more money, more exposure and more staff working to achieve the mission of the organization.
The second kind of organization is the small grassroots, mission driven nonprofit. These groups are often local in nature and while they may gain national exposure from time to time, they are often the workhorses of local communities. Legally becoming a non-profit takes time, money and a group of dedicated people who are able to work together to see a vision become a reality. In the infancy stages of a nonprofit, a majority of the work done is internal as the organization develops the printed materials, devises an advertising strategy, seeks donors and enlists volunteers. For a new organization, figuring out how to actually operate is a challenge.
Survival beyond the First Year
While there is a myriad of resources out there; it is up to the board of directors and the executive leadership of the group to decide what path to take. After the initial setup phase is over, the nonprofit is ready to begin doing the work they set out to do. In short, this is where the magic happens. As a small organization gains its footing, the crunch is on to do something noticeable. There is no way to fake this, a nonprofit’s survival beyond the first year hinges on their ability to actually carry out their mission statement in a successful way i.e. they need to have made a positive difference in the community where they operate. This does not mean that they are highly publicized or have a huge operating budget; however, if the nonprofit wants to approach donors for money‒ it helps to show how the organization’s efforts are impacting the community.
The Trailblazers of the Nonprofit World
The local grassroots organizations are often trailblazers. While the mission to create a new nonprofit is worthwhile, if there is already several other organizations dedicated to the same cause, a new organization can find itself limited in donors or worse, overshadowed by the previously established organization that shares the same mission or fights for the same cause. It is when a new organization is born with a mission to fight a cause that no one else is addressing that the real work begins. For these groups, there is often no trail to follow. From creating exposure to draw attention to the cause to finding advocates to support it, this is often the where nonprofits sink or swim.
The reality of the small nonprofit world is a hard one. There is no shortage of need and in fact, the needs of nearly every community far exceed the abilities of local charities. For small community based organizations whose mission addresses a local issue, it is often the passion and dedication of the leadership to the cause that determines the group’s ability to weather the challenges that all new nonprofits will likely face.
Smaller Organizations Address Local Key Issues
When this is done, and the right group of people can come together, real change happens. In a small nonprofit, the staff is usually limited and often highly volunteer driven to carry out most of its functions. The lack of expansion, departmentalization and layers of authority essentially often allow for vast creative freedom to try new things, develop new projects and focus in on how the group can make the most difference. This is one of the biggest benefits that small nonprofits have over the larger ones. When an issue that falls within the nonprofit’s mission is discovered and a solution presents itself, a small organization generally has the freedom to essentially try new things as they come. In a larger organization, say with a national, regional and local division, many times the highest leadership or headquarters decides the strategies, campaigns and goals of all its offices essentially binding them to one plan. While this structure is obviously beneficial in many ways, the ability to address local issues is often lost.
All in all, without the hard work and dedication of all the nonprofits that work to make our communities a better place, millions of people would suffer. Nonprofit organizations are the lifeblood of the human spirit and the driving force of compassion in a world filled with a multitude of problems large and small. The work of these organizations is often tireless, underpaid, unpaid and certainly underappreciated. If there is a cause you care about, help the organizations who fight for them and carry out the work you know is so very important. Donations can be made in many ways and writing a check is only one of them. Reach out to a local organization and see if you can help because real change starts with you.
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”