Why Start-up Nonprofits Fail – Thanks Oprah!

As a nonprofit founder for almost 15 years, I’ve invested countless amounts of time, money and supplies to Dream Big (my nonprofit agency). When I learned I needed to track everything, I gave up on tallying my start-up contributions from the beginning and started when we began using the software. Even though I kept track after we became incorporated, I didn’t know when to categorize expenses.

I wasn’t sure when organizational needs should have been donated, paid for by a board member, or if I should’ve paid for it. I wasn’t clueless, but I was painfully learning the hard way.

One of the best tips I’ve gained was from The Oprah Show several years ago. In one of her shows (while she was still on the air), experienced nonprofit professionals advised a major flaw of why start-up nonprofits fail. Founders donating their own money to keep the organization vibrant and alive.

I was like, “oooo, that’s me.”

To solely fund the organization will inhibit its growth. The nonprofit needs to find financial sustainability within the community it serves. Finding outside sources will give merit, legitimacy and provide sustainability.

So one may ask, “how much am I supposed to donate if I’m the founder?” The answer is as much as you need. However, that’s not the right question. The question you need to ask is “where do I go to get the funding?,”  but not so fast.

Donors are no different than anyone else that has worked hard for their money. They’re not going to JUST give you money. Give them a compelling reason why every penny, dime, or dollar is worth their investment to your cause.

Keep in mind some broad reasons why people give:

  1. Immediate gratification – donors that want to feel good about their contribution. They usually give because the results are immediate.
  2. Believe in your cause– these donors believe because they support you, and want you to succeed. This is more about you than your organization.
  3. Believe in your vision – this is a group of supporters that appreciate the organization, vision, and want to be involved.
  4. Familiar with the work – this would be a donor that understands the problem. Usually, this would be finding solutions and/or a long-term supporter.

If you haven’t already started to taper off your angel investing, start putting in a plan to stop. Your immediate goal should be to find supporters that believe in your vision. They will donate more than money if they’re compelled, but make sure it’s a good fit for you and your organization. And trust me, you will need more than money to be successful.

I write this because my business is personal because this service is for the advancement of all humanity. My failures and successes are for your gain. No strings attached.

Nathan A. Webster, MBA
Mr. Social Entrepreneur
Consulting | Marketing | Websites



Author: nathanwebster
From a US Marine to nonprofit executive director, I've been fortunate to do a lot of stuff. My quick history is I’m a brand marketer with a background in social good. In the process of running a small educational nonprofit, I learned the value of storytelling and digital branding. That’s how I got involve in marketing, websites, consulting via my podcast as well, and being an adjunct business professor at the local community college.
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