Run your nonprofit with a strategic business approach

Nonprofit organizations across Southern Nevada and the U.S. face numerous challenges as they carry out their missions while generating the public support needed to do so.

To provide a valuable service, nonprofits must follow sustainable operating practices to maintain the manpower, materials, facilities and all else necessary to achieve their goals. The key to accomplishing this is to operate with the strategic approach of a for-profit business.

Here are a few business practices that can help nonprofits thrive in their work to better our community:

• Know your mission. It’s hard to lead a group of people if they don’t understand their objective. Nonprofits must be clear both inside and outside their organization on communicating their mission.

For instance, when the Smith Center for the Performing Arts brings on new board members, employees and volunteers, our top priority is ensuring they know and understand our mission of serving as a high-quality performing arts center. We want to empower our whole team by ensuring they invest their hard work and energy toward the same goal.

• Provide a specialized service. Like for-profit businesses, nonprofits will struggle to succeed if they don’t provide a valuable and unique service. The community’s demand for and interest in your service or product will spur support.

Identify what sets your nonprofit apart, and do it well.

• Money management. Nonprofits and for-profits follow the same survival pattern: To continue operating, they must generate funds and budget accordingly. Nonprofits should utilize accounting services and staff to develop budgeting and spending strategies and monitor their success.

• Embrace marketing. Some outdated stigmas still exist in the nonprofit world, including the idea that nonprofits shouldn’t be marketing themselves. But why not? It’s common sense for any company to advertise its services to grow interest in its product. The same applies for a nonprofit.

Marketing, whether through paid advertising, direct marketing, social media or public relations, can raise awareness of a nonprofit’s work and help drive community members to get involved.

• Get creative. Nonprofits often have to ask for many things, including, of course, donations. Keep in mind that there are many ways to get to “yes.” Get creative in approaching community leaders and organizations for support. If local businesses find monetary support difficult, perhaps they might be more capable of providing in-kind donations or volunteers.

I hope to see Southern Nevada’s nonprofits embrace these practices and share their own successes and lessons learned.

John Burnett is chief financial officer and vice president of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.