Unfortunately, most of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. live a hard life and struggle just to keep their doors open. Often, staff suffer from low pay, high stress, and burnout; technology is underutilized; and board members and other volunteers are disengaged, misaligned, and besieged with emails from fundraising staff to “please fill your table at the auction!” Even for larger organizations, programs are often under-resourced, pay isn’t competitive, and fundraising is onerous, expensive, and unpredictable.

Following the pathway described here, if the board can pull together as a team and take these steps, dramatic improvements in organizational performance and impact can occur in as few as 12 to 18 months.

  • Change your own mind and behaviors.
  • Identify the one thing you do better, faster, or cheaper than anyone else.
  • Set a BHAG — a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.
  • Articulate a credible strategy for accomplishing your BHAG.
  • Task the chief executive with developing an actionable business plan.
  • Go after the money.
  • Invest heavily in marketing.
  • Craft a detailed financial projection going out at least three years.
  • Develop a good organizational chart.
  • Brag about your board members.
  • Boil it down to a very short document and presentation.

The good news for board members is that you “only” need to oversee this process and provide substantive, supportive feedback. It’s the executive team’s job to figure out the specifics, and its your job to give them the support and resources to climb all these mountains.

How does this land with you? Are you excited by the challenge and eager to explore how this difficult-but-necessary work can dramatically increase the amount of good your organization is able to deliver to the world? Or does it all seem impossible? Because in the final analysis, whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are probably right.

Read the full article about nonprofit business plans by Donald Summers at BoardSource.