8 Key Attributes of Successful Non-profit Organizations

Clint Rogers


Clint Rogers


February 24, 2022

8 Key Attributes of Successful Non-profit Organizations

As of 2022, there are 1.5 million registered non-profit organizations in the United States alone. These organizations fulfill society’s needs through environmental advocacy, feeding the poor, providing education, offering spiritual community, and so much more. These non-profits are run by men and women who see a problem in the world and are doing everything they can to fix it.

Non-profit organizations make the world a better place and that is why our mission at PMF Creative is “to help those who do good do more.” Through the power of digital media, we want to provide a way to help these non-profit organizations thrive and grow. But enough about us, let’s talk about you!

So you’re involved with a non-profit yourself, and you’re wondering what exactly is the secret sauce to becoming successful in the non-profit sector. We’re going to give you a few key attributes we have seen that successful non-profits have in common. We hope these tips will help you as you seek to do good in the world through your organization!

  1. Short and Sweet Mission Statement

    Every non-profit needs to be able to explain the “why” behind their “what.” This is where your mission statement comes in. Your statement should be able to explain the mission of your organization in just a simple sentence.

    Here are three questions to answer in a strong mission statement:

    1. Why does your organization exist?
    2. Who does it serve?
    3. How does it serve them/it?

    Here are a few wonderful examples of solid non-profit mission statements:

    ● Our mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth. (World Wildlife Fund)
    ● Our mission is to abolish slavery everywhere, forever. (A21)
    ● One Degree’s mission is to empower people to create a path out of poverty for themselves and their communities. (One Degree)
    ● To conserve the land and waters on which all life depends (The Nature Conservancy)

    Crafting a clear and inspiring mission statement is an essential first step in the success of your non-profit

  2. Be Transparent

    Non-profits, by nature, do not collect money for personal gain. Instead, they use money that is donated and collected to directly benefit those they are trying to serve. Unfortunately, some non-profits in the past have not been fully honest about their finances, and their lack of transparency has seriously damaged their reputation and cause.

    Being fully transparent, especially regarding your finances, is the way to go as a non-profit.

    When you choose to be transparent as a non-profit, you are investing in your donors and building trust with them. Being fully clear about the allocation of money and budgets shows that you have nothing to hide, and your donors can be confident that their dollars are being put to good use. Transparency is the key to success!

  3. They Are Agile

    The life of a non-profit can be unpredictable at times. When crisis strikes, you begin to see what you’re made of, both as an individual and an organization. The Coronavirus pandemic put non-profits to the test to see their agility or lack thereof.

    Non-profit organizations that were agile during the midst of the pandemic are those that were quick to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. They are the ones who were able to shift their focus, and possibly even their original mission, to fit the needs in the community.

    For example, instead of packing out auditoriums, many churches contributed to solving the food and financial crisis.

    Although their previous primary activity included Sunday services and events, they adapted and quickly shifted toward providing food, cleaning supplies, and money for struggling families and individuals.

    Non-profits who are agile are the ones who can take things as they come and provide quick solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.

  4. They Are Donor-Centric

    There is something special about the relationship between non-profits and their donors as opposed to businesses and their customers. Non-profits are about partnership, while for-profit organizations are about, well, profit. This isn’t to say that for-profit organizations are just money-hungry juggernauts that don’t care about their customers — far from it!

    The difference we are trying to highlight is that non-profits are highly concerned about a well-nurtured partnership between their donors and themselves.

    Successful non-profits are those who are highly donor-centric. They build genuine relationships with their donors, are transparent with them, and constantly look for new opportunities to involve the donor in their community. These non-profits understand that their donors are the backbone of their organizations. This isn’t just because they support the non-profit financially, but because they wholeheartedly believe in the vision and support it. Therefore, centering your focus on these supporters is a huge key to success in your non-profit.

  5. They Develop Diverse Funding Sources

    Raising funds is a highly important aspect of running a non-profit organization. The way these funds are raised is primarily done through well-established donor relationships. However, this is not the only way to raise money.

    Successful non-profit organizations think outside the box regarding where their funding comes from. They understand that many different entities and people could and should be involved in fundraising. For example, you can build donorship through fundraising events or banquets, sharing the non-profit’s mission and vision at schools or conferences, and even through special grants available to many organizations.

    Raising funds through multiple avenues assures that donorship remains steady and that if one donor pulls back, there is someone else out there who believes in the mission enough to fill in the gap.

  6. They Can Mobilize And Inspire Others

    Non-profits exist to help the world in some way, but that mission can never be realized if no one is behind it. Inspiring others and inviting them to do something is a major key to non-profit success. You can raise all the funds you want, but if your supporters aren’t willing to step into the fight with you, it will be really hard to make headway.

    Successful non-profits inspire people to take action. Their mission is to transform donors into partners and move them to participate in the work!  They can do this through volunteering, going on special trips, and even spreading awareness about the non-profit's work in the world.

  7. They Are Digitally-Savvy

    Whether you are a church, a wildlife advocacy group, or a food pantry, your non-profit needs to be online. The world has shifted dramatically in the past decade and having a solid online presence is key for success whether you are a non-profit or a for-profit organization.

    Successful non-profits are those who do not shy away from an online presence but see it as a major pathway to building donorship, cultivating relationships, and spreading their mission to the ends of the earth.

    They have killer websites, a thriving social media presence, and have open communication with those online. They understand the importance of the digital world, so these non-profits use the web for all its worth and see great success when doing so.

  8. They Continuously Listen And Improve

    Successful organizations don’t just become successful overnight. There is often a grueling growing process that occurs behind the scenes. We’re pretty sure most businesses and non-profits out there have wondered how they can survive certain seasons!

    The difference between a non-profit that flounders and thrives is whether or not they are open to this growth process. The best way to grow is to continuously listen and seek out to constantly improve.

    Receiving feedback from donors, communities, and those you are striving to help is vital in the process of improvement. This openness to feedback helps you avoid any possible blind spots or even missed opportunities as an organization. This listening (and application) will ultimately help you grow and improve as a non-profit organization

Becoming successful as a non-profit involves a ton of hard work. A clear mission, transparency, and agility help you launch and get moving as a non-profit. Focusing on donors, diversifying that donorship, and mobilizing those donors is a part of enduring as a non-profit. Upholding your online presence, listening to feedback, and always looking to improve are the ways you will grow as a non-profit.

As you seek to make a greater impact in the world, the PMF Creative family is ready to partner with you and help you ignite your nonprofit and change the world! Whether you need branding, graphic design,  social media, video editing, a new website, or a comprehensive strategy to guide all of those marketing efforts, we can help. Contact us today and see how we can work together and do good in the world!

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