Nonprofits and Startups

Philip Manzano • Aug 15, 2017

These worlds are more similar than you’d think! The post Nonprofits and Startups appeared first on Keela.

The parallels between a startup company and a nonprofit are vivid.

At a startup, you’re often wearing multiple hats, doing the jobs of two or three people. You work long hours. You wish you had a bigger office, and more team members. You’re constantly raising money and talking to board members. And if you’re successful — more often than not, there is a large group of people who rely on your services. And last but not least, you are capital-P Passionate about the work you’re doing.

Sound familiar?

Having started my career in the nonprofit world, it’s easy to see these parallels. There is a lot that both of these worlds can learn from one another, and they are constantly looking for ways to improve.

Fundraising and Relationship Raising

In the startup world, relationships are of utmost importance. The connections that you have, the people you know, the places you’ve come in contact with — it is all part of the equation of success. Each relationship you have represents a skillset or knowledge base. Your relationships consist of mentors experts to push your own initiatives forward. And if you’re lucky — these relationships can lead to funds and other forms of support for your company.

In the nonprofit world, it is often said that you do not fundraise. Rather, you relationship raise. You spend your time developing genuine relationships with individuals, not necessarily with the intention of getting their money — but getting to their heart. Your relationship consists of helping them understand your work, and facilitating an emotional connection to it.

In both cases, your relationships keep you afloat.

Technology shouldn’t get in the way of impact

The moment that technology impedes your progress is the moment that you have to reevaluate. At it’s core, tech is developed to make work easier to do. It makes us work faster, smarter, and more strategically. It shouldn’t cause frustration or headaches.

The nonprofit world has an interesting relationship with technology. Because of the relatively high cost and slow adoption of tech solutions — some orgs don’t bother with upgrading even the most essential systems. And more often than not, failing to upgrade causes most of the frustration.

Investing in technology is an important step to save time and money in the long-run. An integrated CRM that automates the simplest, time-consuming tasks can mean the difference between an afternoon of data entry, or time on the phones talking to donors or time on the frontlines helping people. Taking the time to train staff to use technology properly is an investment that pays for itself.

Capacity building and community

Success happens when people work together. In the startup world, there are countless capacity building opportunities. From workshops to meetups to blogs to webinars to mentorships. There is overwhelming support for the startup community and so many resources to level up your own strategies and initiatives. There’s a feeling of wanting one another to succeed — even competitors. The same can certainly be said of the nonprofit world. Most of the time, these opportunities are free. Organizations like TechSoup and the Foundation Center constantly provide free resources for nonprofit professionals.

Not only should these free resources be taken advantage of — there should be a concentrated effort to seek out these opportunities. There are so many teachers out there.

Learning never gets old.

Taking pride in the work

In the startup world, you will be hard-pressed to find an individual who doesn’t care about the work they are doing. Every person is passionate not only about their company, but about their own role and contributions. Just like a nonprofit — being at a startup isn’t glamorous. It’s hard work that has the potential to take you away from other things going on in your life.

But when you take pride in your work, you’re able to deal with the roller coaster of the work-week. There are major wins and devastating losses. But at the end of the day, you’re are making an impact. And when you focus on that, you are able to push forward to your next success.

In the nonprofit world, this idea is prominent. Everyone takes pride in their mission to do good and help. When that is your end goal, it’s easy to see why people would go above and beyond. It’s because the sector is filled with good people that have huge hearts.

Startups and nonprofits have a great deal in common. We go through the same problems and have the same passion. We understand one another, and we can certainly learn from one another.

Here are some other great resources to help your nonprofit level up its capacity: