A nonprofit’s most valuable commodity is trust, especially during the early years of a startup when tangible resources may be limited.
Your organization’s board members and leadership must be able to trust one another as well as the volunteers and staff who fill various roles. Staff must likewise be able to trust the board. The community being served must believe in the goodwill of the organization, and the organization itself must have faith in the goodwill of the community.
Without this mutual confidence, any business will struggle during its early years, and many won’t endure. Distrust leads to resistance to new ideas, to micromanagement, and to disengagement, any of which can overturn the most well-intentioned nonprofit.
The easiest and most sure way to develop an environment of trust is through reliability, and reliability is a habit developed through specific practices.
Establish a clear, common mission statement
The cornerstone of any successful enterprise is a clear, common mission. Before you decide whether your startup will be an unincorporated association or a nonprofit corporation, before you fill out the appropriate 1023 application, your founders need to establish a realistic, explicitly defined mission statement.
Don’t be afraid to get detailed about your startup’s purpose. Being precise won’t limit your success, it will make success easier to achieve. If all of your members understand precisely what you’re aiming to accomplish, you’ve begun from a place of understanding, which is the basis of trust.
Set specific, achievable goals
While your mission statement expresses the purpose of your organization, goals are the stepping stones to achieve that purpose. nonprofit founders are big thinkers, innovators, and optimists, and sometimes our goals reflect that all too well.
When it comes to goals, bring those big ideas and high hopes to the ground level and start there. Being specific in goal-making ensures that your stakeholders will know when those goals have been met. If we set goals too high, especially in the early stages of a nonprofit, we can burn out enthusiastic volunteers quickly, leaving them feeling underappreciated. Keeping goals on an achievable scale helps to build morale and trust.
Develop systematic processes
Once you’ve established your mission statement and defined your goals, it’s time to create processes. What do formal processes have to do with trust?
By creating systematic processes for tracking nonprofit compliance requirements, financial record-keeping, and managing personnel and other integral resources of your nonprofit, you make it easier to prove your reliability to stakeholders. Scrambling to find documentation at the last minute or, worse, having your nonprofit’s hard-won tax-exempt status revoked due to missed 501c(3) deadlines fosters an environment of confusion and second-guessing. Neither is conducive to building trust.
Keep board members, volunteers, and the community being served informed as you achieve your goals and fulfill your mission. If you’ve built reliable processes, you won’t have problems sharing the data that shows your progress. Nothing builds confidence like evidence of success, so don’t be afraid to share it regularly
If you are looking to start up your non profit today, check out Resilia’s ExemptMeNow service that simplifies the required steps to incorporating and gaining tax exempt status.