You set up a non-profit organization with a sound mission. You are even killing it, maybe even winning awards. The question on most founders and directors of non-profits is always how to expand, to scale or to grow. Either geographic wise or the number of people to serve. For profit-making organizations, the decision is relatively easy, unlike for non-profits.
A few months ago, I attended a webinar organized by one of my host organization funders facilitated by Mark Edwards from Upstream USA. The focus was on the journey of non-profit’s works with a focus on building blocks for scaling.
I had three major takeaways which includes;
- Impact Measurement: Before embarking on the decision of scaling, It is crucial that every non-profit seeking to expand understands without a reservation that the past and current success of their programs are attributed to their interventions. This includes documenting significant learnings from the past of what works or not. Ascertaining the stance of the organization’s achievements requires investing in resources such as time, robust data systems and professional external program evaluators.
- Government Partnership: In as much as non-profits may have the autonomy, there exists leadership support that government provide in many ways. It might be in terms of the policies, funding and/or public trust. Being the government’s “friend” therefore guarantees “favours” that can not be harnessed from anywhere else. Additionally, the government also provides several funding opportunities depending on the country. All these help in having a healthy scale-up.
- Fundraising Plans: Money solidifies scaling plans. It is imperative that as an organization embarking on a growth journey has a multi-year fundraising plan. This could be having upfront cash or funding commitments. Lastly, an organization must diversify funding sources unlike depending on sole funders.
Conclusively; The listed building blocks in this blog are not exhaustive and are not mutually exclusive. In most cases, they complement each other. For example, funding plans and impact measurement; most funders are motivated by evidence which can only be obtained through impact measurement, so it is important to deduce how these blocks complement each other in your organization and leverage that inference. When it comes to accepting government funding, an organization has to be prepared for the burden it comes with as most government funding demand certain ways of reporting that requires extra dedication.