Throughout my professional career, I’ve always worked full-time for one company and do freelance work on the side. That type of work schedule was an effort to make myself more well-rounded as a professional, and simultaneously get myself wet in other ventures that are of my passion. While my “full-time jobs” were in big business, primarily in the tech industry, a good portion of my freelance work happened to be in the non-profit business sector, where I literally dove in head first (and probably felt like I did it without swim trunks). I know that a big company environment can differ from that of a non-profit organization, but business philosophies aren’t all that different.

At least, not entirely.

What is very obvious to me in my experience is how non-profits tend to produce lower quality results that most big businesses [can] produce — and I say that loosely. Human resources, time resources, skill/knowledge of best practices, and other factors do come into play in this equation. With a limited staff, non-profits tend to do too much and spread themselves thin to get the best results they can with what they have, which isn’t always a bad thing. But with a leaner, greener way of conducting business in a corporate and individual level, non-profits can succeed more frequently in their campaigns, their ROI, and overall business mentality. Here’s how [I think] it can work.

1. Put Your Employees with the Right Skills in the Right Place

I know this may sound redundant, but it really is a good practice to place your employees in a position and situation where they will exceed and succeed, both professionally and in life. I’ve seen non-profit employees take on too many roles, and sometimes these are roles with a steep learning curve, leading them to be overwhelmed, burned out, and eventually tuned out. One of the best methods I’ve seen is to establish areas of expertise that each members are particularly savvy with (or shows signs of potential), and utilize them to perform those skilled areas for good portion of their work. The rest of the duties and responsibilities that have common ground with the lowest common denominator are shared to keep business operations in tact, which also serves as somewhat of a [good] distraction.

2. Create a creative, relaxing, “non-threatening” environment

As an employee, I know that a creative, non-threatening, and open workplace atmosphere provides a more collaborative environment where employees can openly discuss projects and serve each other more effectively. A closed door mentality and a segregated, non-communicative workplace only divides the communal effort, negates the collaborative pursuit of company business goals, and prevents individuals and teams to be fruitful and effective in their respective departments and skill set.

3. Be lean to make green

Sometimes, too much stuff and fluff in any process or procedure only deters from achieving proper results. This is true in the digital marketing world, and the same philosophy can be applied in a non-profit business. Find areas where procedures and processes are not valuable or not producing well, and assign groups of individuals, teams, or even a board, to determine proper course of action. Identify areas where you can do without, whether it’s financial, position, company items, etc, and create a way to increase customer engagement by streamlining procedures and making necessary processes more efficient. The idea of addition by subtraction is a great way to make your company lean in order to focus on the best results possible for your company and your customers.

4. Invest in technological advancements

I get it: non-profits have that stigma of being poor and not being able to afford things. That’s not necessarily the case if you’re trying to invest in your future. I know of such companies who 1) aren’t even striving for future development (mobile technology, cloud computing, digital marketing, social, etc.), 2) who don’t have the means or don’t want to finance for the future, or 3) is culturally not in the position – whether in legacy culture or not – to be able to provide those types of advancements. In today’s world, technology is as much of a factor in driving business to its thresholds as is the customer’s ability to take in that technology to get your business. Being where your customers are depends on how well you position your company to them, and technology is a good bet for the future.

5. Position your non-profit as a business

In line with the technological investments, it’s easy to say that for whatever type of non-profit you are, there is a tendency to think and associate yourself as that specific non-profit. While that is to be true from a philosophical standpoint, making your non-profit grow into a customer-centric entity requires your company to be positioned as a business. And as a business, it’s good to keep your company in line with what global businesses are doing to expand their revenue streams and customer acquisition models. Focus on the trends that business is going – whether it’s on technology, financial, marketing, or other elements of business. By positioning your company in a more business mindset, you won’t be left behind in archaic and old mentality of producing revenue when the rest of the world passes you by.

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