Our experience as a business that offers websites for charities shows us that running a successful charity requires a lot of planning, preparation, dedication and commitment.
Here are some tips to run a successful charity:
- Develop clear and realistic goals;
- Find a great team and use the right tools;
- Recruit, train and manage volunteers;
- Focus on financial management;
- Put in strong financial controls;
- Create a fundraising plan;
- Approach fundraising as a marketing project;
- Avoid chasing the money;
- Good governance matters;
- Leverage the power of social media;
- Send updates and offers; and
- Utilise branding, flexible payment options, recurring gifts and gift matching.
Let’s elaborate on these tips to run a successful charity one by one:
1. Develop Clear and Realistic Goals:
Setting clear and realistic goals for your charity is an important step to ensure you stay focused and motivated. It is essential to consider your resources, strengths, and weaknesses when setting your goals. Start by determining your charity’s mission and objectives, and then develop a plan of action to achieve those goals. Your plan should include measurable milestones and timelines. Also, consider the budget and resources you will need to reach your objectives.
We will talk about the practical steps in detail later but here is a short version:
- Find goals that resonate with you and your core team. They should motivate you and your team every day and push you to give your best when the going gets tough.
- Give a human connect to the goals. Saying ‘we will feed and teach 100 underprivileged school children in (place/city name) for free’ is a much better goal than saying, ‘we will help feed and teach underprivileged children for free’.
- Make it practical and easy to achieve. Taking the above example, adding 10 children to the food and education programme every month will be an easier and more concrete goal than one where you intend to get 100 children into the programme in a year.
A small side note here. It is good to approach this with the mindset of a project manager. Break down each goal into mini goals with short to mid-term objectives. Plan three alternative deadlines for each. The timeline deadlines should be:
- The shortest timeline possible to achieve the objective: You can attach a reward system to this for everyone involved including the founders and co-founders, the management, the support staff and the volunteers. This should motivate everyone to achieve the objective.
- The normal deadline: This should be the regular timeline. Any reward system you have should be minimal so that the effort is appreciated but there is a focus on improvement.
- The extended deadline: This timeline should be for situations and objectives when the regular deadline cannot be met due to exigent circumstances or situations beyond the non-profit’s control. Ideally, there should not be any rewards associated with this timeline.
2. Find a Great Team and Use the Right Tools:
Though a charity usually starts with the vision of a single individual, it always helps to have a core team. If funds are available well before the charity starts its operations, then getting the core team in place should be the first priority.
Like with any organisation – business or otherwise – having the right people and tools in place is essential to run a successful non-profit. Recruit a great team of people with the right skills and experience. Start with one and keep adding to the list.
Use the right tools to help you manage the team efficiently. Consider investing in software solutions that can help you manage employees and volunteers and even track donations and streamline administrative tasks. The more you automate small steps like attendance, leave applications, salaries and so on, the easier it becomes to run the organisation.
3. Recruit, Train and Manage Volunteers:
Volunteers are usually the backbone of any non-profit and especially smaller charities that cannot employ a large team. It is important to recruit the right people for the job, provide adequate training, and manage volunteers effectively.
If you run a smaller non-profit, start the charity on your own or with like-minded people who are willing to work for free or at least for a lesser pay than regular employees – unless you already have funding.
When recruiting, consider the skills and experience of the volunteers, as well as their motivations for volunteering. After the team is in place, provide them with adequate training and support and ensure they have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Good volunteer management will ensure the volunteers are able to work together effectively and achieve the charity’s goals.
4. Focus on Financial Management:
Strong financial management is essential to ensure the charity stays viable. Monitor expenses, revenue, and cash flow on a regular basis to ensure the non-profit is able to meet its financial objectives. Consider investing in financial software solutions to help you manage your finances and ensure you are making the best use of your resources.
This may not seem relevant when the charity is starting but once you start adding team members or volunteers, financial management becomes critical. In addition to strengthening internal controls, a strong financial management structure makes statutory reporting timely and easy.
In the initial months, the founder or co-founder will have to take a special interest in financial management but the task should be delegated to a professional once the necessary processes are in place. Having a competent person to take care of this frees up time for the senior management to focus on the growth of the non-profit.
5. Put in Strong Financial Controls:
This cannot be stressed enough. Financial controls are essential to ensure that your money is spent in the right way. Financial management without strong financial control does not work. Your financial management measures will help you have a strong budget and accounting system in place while a strong financial control system will ensure there are sufficient checks and monitoring of expenses, revenue, and cash flow on a regular basis.
Put in place strong oversight measures to ensure financial procedures are followed and all financial transactions are transparent. These measures should be either automated or a part of a mandatory process flow.
Have clear guidelines on how and where the money can be spent and by whom. Allocate responsibility for each expense head or at least for each expense slab. For instance, the approval to buy a laptop can rest with a senior person while the approval for expenses to buy pens and notebooks can be delegated to a volunteer.
6. Create a Fundraising Plan:
Create a detailed fundraising plan with measurable goals and timelines. Include a breakdown of the budget, the target audience, and the resources you will need to reach your fundraising goals.
Fundraising can prove difficult when you are starting out and having people in your network fund the initial expenses always helps.
Most non-profits make the mistake of traditional networks and cold calls to raise funds. It is good to remember that the more people know of the charity, the better the chances of meeting the funding goals. A strong online presence helps you reach a wider audience beyond your local geography. Even online ads and traditional flyers help people remember the brand and the work you do.
7. Approach Fundraising as a Marketing Project:
Most charities do not approach fundraising as a marketing project, which they should. Having detailed fundraising packs that have all the necessary information helps potential donors get all their queries answered and increase the chances of a contribution. Including a clear and concise summary of the charity’s objectives, case studies of work you have done to build a human connect, a list of ways supporters can contribute, and a thank you note to show your appreciation go a long way.
Non-profits can always raise funds using a subscription model. This helps people who would not otherwise contribute do so in smaller chunks which in time add up to much more than what larger donors would have contributed as a single donation. Millions of untapped donors feel strongly about your cause, and you need a marketing plan to add them to your donor pool. Approaching these people will always work better than raising funds from the same smaller pool of sponsors. Use your website for charities the smart way to get donations online.
8. Avoid Chasing the Money:
Most non-profits forget their goals in the race to raise funds and do the good work. It is important to focus on your core mission and not become distracted with chasing the money. Instead, focus on delivering the best services and providing meaningful support to those in need. It is still rare to find organisations that go the distance when it comes to serving the needy and if you are one of those rare few, your work will serve to spread the word. And you will likely not have to worry about funds if you have put in even some basic effort in marketing. A smarter way to go about it is to use the online medium effectively.
Most charities do not realise that investing in a charity website and spending a bit to promote it online using SEO helps spread the word about your work much better than traditional ways. A simple calculation will show you that investing as much as the salary of a junior employee in SEO will show better returns within a year. Non-profits that continue to put in the effort to build an online presence outgrow others that rely on traditional ways to grow their organisation.
9. Good Governance Matters:
Put in place the right policies and procedures to ensure the organisation is governed well and operates in a responsible and ethical manner. Review your documentation on a regular basis to ensure they are up to date. Involve your team members, volunteers and even your donors to get feedback and formulate coherent roadmaps and guidelines.
Good governance is essential for running a successful charity. What many forget is that the principles, processes and procedures are susceptible to the environment and the nature of work, and should be revisited, reviewed and revisited to ensure the organisation is able to continue its good work.
10. Leverage the Power of Social Media:
Social media is a powerful tool for spreading awareness about your charity’s mission and engaging with supporters. Use social media to share updates about your charity’s activities and promote upcoming events. Respond to comments and messages promptly and engage with your followers on a regular basis to build up a strong base of supporters.
May charities are unable to understand social media channels properly and do not know where to focus their energies. Ideally, they should not focus on more than two and choose only those two where their supporters are more likely to be found. For instance, they should target:
- LinkedIn: If their donors, volunteers and other supporters are mostly professionals or corporations
- Facebook: If their target audience is mostly in the 30-65 years age group
- Instagram: If the supporters are mostly younger with most of them under 35 years
- YouTube: If the target audience uses YouTube on mobile, or consists of millennials
- Twitter: If they are looking for government or other large sponsors who use the platform themselves for their outreach
11. Send Updates and Offers:
Keep potential donors and other supporters informed by sending frequent updates and offers. Ensure the updates include information about upcoming events and ways to get involved. Include a call to action and provide links to donate or sign up for events.
If the donors have contributed to a specific cause, keep them updated on the latest happenings, work progress and other updates that help them feel connected to their cause. This simple act of keeping the donor updated increases involvement and engagement and furthers your chances of creating a long-term support partnership.
Remember, not all support needs to be financial. Sometimes, word-of-mouth publicity works wonders to increase the non-profit’s future prospects.
You will be surprised how a simple sincere email newsletter or even a WhatsApp message can work wonders. The key is to be regular in your interactions so your supporters have your name on top of their minds. Talk about your work, ask for feedback and advice, reach out with gifts or offers from corporate sponsors and you will never have to work hard to raise funds.
12. Utilise Branding, Flexible Payment Options, Recurring Gifts and Gift Matching:
Utilise branding, flexible payment options, recurring gifts and gift matching to maximise donations and donor engagement. Make the donor feel special with mentions in newsletters or social media posts. You can even put up their names on your website.
Invest in tools that allow you to accept payments online and offer recurring payment options. Leverage gift matching programmes (where a sponsor’s contribution matches what regular donors contribute) to increase donations. Set up loyalty programmes to reward donors.
If you run a smaller charity that does not have the reach, use online marketing to slowly grow your brand value. Give your sponsors the option to become subscribers so they can make smaller regular payments. Have volunteers reach out to larger corporations or foundations for support. Schools and colleges can form another strong support group for your non-profit.