Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leading a nonprofit 9: building and leading the nonprofit startup 1

Posted in career development, job search and career development, nonprofits by Timothy Platt on November 27, 2012

This is my ninth installment in a new series on leading a nonprofit (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 267-274 for Parts 1-8.) So far I have primarily focused on leading an established nonprofit with a history and structure, and an ongoing cash flow and an established supporting community. With this posting I turn to consider the challenges of starting a nonprofit, as its founding leader and visionary. And chances are that if you are looking to found and build a nonprofit, you do so driven by the imperative of a specific mission and vision and its societal significance.

I have been writing on an ongoing basis about startups in this blog, and in that more general context I cite my various postings and series as can be found at: Startups and Early Stage Businesses. My hope is that at least some of that material would be of value to the founder of a nonprofit startup, even as the same general principles would apply to the new for-profit business as well. And in that regard and with the stringent cash flow requirements needed to gain and maintain a tax exempt nonprofit status, I specifically cite my series: Understanding and Navigating Burn Rate: a startup primer, as included there as postings 67-78. But in keeping with the basic thrust of this series, I focus here on issues particular to nonprofits and their leadership. And I begin with some basic questions.

• What is the specific value defining core idea or issue that gives your proposed mission and vision statements meaning?
• Can you clearly and compellingly explain it and with the brevity of an elevator pitch that you would use if seeking a job? (See Structuring an Effective Elevator Pitch.)

Who is your natural audience for this message? Throw a wide net in answering that, as you want to include everyone who is or is likely to be directly impacted upon by the challenges you would address in your nonprofit, and you also want to include people and groups who would wish to support those so afflicted. Think in terms of potential donors here who have discretionary income to share with charitable organizations and nonprofits, but also think in terms of the people who would influence them to pick your mission and vision statements to support, and your nonprofit for seeking to actively, meaningfully address them.

So I write here about the dual and deeply interconnected tasks of crafting a message and knowing who that message could favorably reach as a call to action.

This is a short posting by word count but it covers a lot of ground in outlining steps that need taking, and that would come from the founder and people they can bring in early on. I am going to pick up on the second half of that last sentence in my next series installment, where I will look into some of the issues that nonprofit founders face in building a team. And I note in anticipation of that, that an effective founder of a nonprofit need not be an effective chief executive officer. But they do need to know if someone else should be found to actually manage the organization as a business, and they do need to be able to find and bring onboard such a person if needed, as well as help to find the rest of a starting team. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. You can also find this and related postings at Nonprofits and Social Networking.

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