Five Strategies for Sustaining and Scaling Your Nonprofit Mission

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As you have stepped into a new year filled with new possibilities, we want you to know that we see you.

We see you juggling responsibilities and wearing hats you never thought you’d need to wear. We see you putting in long hours and fighting emotional fatigue, still feeling like you may not be doing enough. And we know that in spite of it all, you’re showing up every day, driven by your mission and the people you serve.

The world has changed before our eyes, and in these challenging, unprecedented times, you’re leading the way to strengthen your communities.

You are a catalyst for change, but in order to expand your reach and maximize impact, you have to be mindful of how you grow—that is, your organization’s capacity to sustain itself and grow.

Our team has learned a lot from decades of experience founding and leading nonprofit organizations (some of our learnings have been from making mistakes, owning those mistakes, and iterating on what we’ve learned).

As we share what we’ve learned, we want to zoom in on the five key areas we see as crucial to properly scaling and sustaining the mission of an organization: a healthy and collaborative leadership structure, a clear mission and compelling messaging, professional marketing and design, powerful storytelling, and measurable impact.

Healthy and Collaborative Leadership Structure

Team members who feel valued create value. A traditional, hierarchical leadership structure is a surefire way to stifle a team’s creativity and waste talent. Successful organizations are built on the wisdom and perspectives of all its members—so build a diverse leadership team that reflects the communities your organization serves.

Highlight inclusivity, encourage multiple perspectives, empower your decision-makers, listen, and act on what you learn from others on your team. Most importantly, maintain a humble approach and always remember that the focus should be on the mission, not the individual.

Clear Mission and Compelling Messaging

Know your organization’s mission and live it.

It may sound corny, but several years ago, we heard a nonprofit leader ask this question, “Your organization’s mission may be written on the wall, but is it happening down the hall?”

A nonprofit’s messaging must be clear and consistent with its core values. The mission should both unify the team and rally support for the cause. When you can define your mission with all the passion it inspires in you, that energy is contagious.

A compelling message is both a proclamation and an invitation —“Here’s our mission. How will you help us accomplish it?”

Professional Marketing and Design

Your look sends a message before your words do. What is your brand saying?

A well-designed logo and visual package can do some heavy lifting. You want to communicate that your nonprofit is modern, distinctive, trustworthy, and passionate.

By investing in professional branding, you unlock new avenues of support. A strategic email campaign can reach new donors; a well-designed logo becomes the friendly, recognizable face of the org; a successful social media campaign gets shared with like-minded followers. With the right design, audiences will be moved to share, click, and forward your cause.

Powerful Storytelling

Your organization exists to change the direction of the story of people’s lives. Nonprofits interrupt the plot and change the narrative.

Invite readers into those stories. How has your mission transformed lives? Who are the actual individuals who have been impacted by your work? What new heights have they reached? When you carefully craft these stories and connect with audiences on an emotional level, you make your nonprofit’s impact real. More and more people will want to play a role in these stories.

High-quality visual photography and videography are essential to compelling storytelling. Donors want to see the construction progress, meet the eyes of an entrepreneur whose business they have invested in, or hear about the medical care they helped to provide.

The more real the story becomes for the audience—through videos, blog posts, and social media—the more likely they are to engage.

Measurable Impact

More often than not, your organization’s decisions should be driven by data. The extent of your impact can often be determined more effectively through measurable outcomes.

What do the numbers say?

Regularly review your metrics—and share them. Nonprofits need systems that foster transparency and trust, and shared data is critical to that mission. When you ask your team members to help you interpret data and make decisions, you become more accountable to your mission and each other. Your numbers allow the team to reflect on progress, refine strategies, and experiment with ideas that can maximize impact.

What we’re talking about here is the health of your mission. Sustaining and scaling your nonprofit really comes down to building strong systems. The organization—and the communities you serve—benefit when you invest in healthy leadership, clear messaging, beautiful design, compelling stories, and data-driven decisions.

We want to help you create a positive and lasting impact on the communities you serve.

If this resonates with you in some way, we’d love to have a conversation. We’re passionate about empowering leaders like you. If you’re interested, there’s an open invitation to contact us to explore how we can support your mission in a way that aligns with your goals and values.

Bill Cummings

Bill is a seasoned nonprofit founder, leader, marketer, fundraiser, and storyteller. He is the founder and former executive director of Lemonade International and has served in leadership positions with Zoe Empowers and Restore NYC. He works with clients on organizational strategy, branding, fundraising, and communications.