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6 initiatives not-for-profits should focus on to thrive in an evolving world

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Not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) face a highly dynamic landscape of challenges and opportunities throughout their entire life cycle, which can make it difficult to carry out their mission of stewardship and scale projects as needed. Knowing what help is available is key to your success.

The NPO life cycle

Understanding the different phases of the NPO life cycle can help you prepare for—and conquer—the obstacles that may stand in the way of your success:

Driven by an urgent, unmet need in the community, your NPO begins to get formalized. Key priorities include adopting a funding model and developing a marketing strategy to tell your story and share your journey.

Your focus is on expanding your mission and revenue streams. In this phase, your organization begins documenting its success stories and making proactive efforts to give back to the community. Through these efforts, you begin to build brand recognition, loyalty, and funds.

As your NPO expands its social role and diversifies its operations in the community, it adapts to new business models and technologies and considers new donor strategies.

In this stage, your NPO strives to maintain the same level of value for its cause while keeping up with the current needs of operating. With a large database of organizational records and personally identifiable information on a donor registry, maintaining a secure environment for data is essential.

Your NPO is winding down operations or amalgamating with another organization.

BDO knows NPOs

BDO’s national leadership group is committed to serving our not-for-profit clients across all sectors, from healthcare and education to philanthropy and advocacy.

Our NPO solutions are founded on four guiding principles:

  • A full range of services: BDO provides multi-faceted strategies for the not-for-profit sector, from governance reviews and employee training to strategic planning, cybersecurity, human resources, and IT. 
  • Multi-disciplinary professionals: Our NPO clients have direct access to experienced accounting, audit, tax, and advisory professionals from across the country. 
  • A collaborative approach: Our professionals collaborate to share ideas, knowledge, and approaches that provide NPOs with improved, value-added service. 
  • Comprehensive support: Our NPO team has supported organizations of all sizes, across Canada, and in all stages of their life cycle.
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From our experience working with not-for-profits, we have identified the following six priorities that are critical to NPO resilience and success.

Explore below to see the areas you may need to re-evaluate and follow the associated links to get relevant strategies you can implement immediately.

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Initiative #1:

Technology

NPOs of all types are struggling to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world and connected with the communities they serve. Technological innovation has often taken a backseat as NPOs focus resources and efforts towards their cause, but organizations can’t lose sight of the significant opportunities that technology provides or the risks that come with trivializing digital transformation.

Embracing the right technology can help empower NPOs to operate more efficiently and effectively. Bear in mind that digital strategy doesn’t just involve modernizing infrastructure, but should include a framework that aligns people, processes, and technology. The best way forward is through careful planning: taking stock of where you are now, identifying areas that need improving, and coming up with a roadmap to move forward that will accelerate your organization while ensuring sensitive data remains secure.

Looking for support with your technology challenges?
Connect with us today.

Here’s how we can help your organization leverage technology solutions:

Grow

Evolve 

  • Implement relevant and functional technology platforms.
  • Update customer relationship management (CRM) structure and reporting.
  • Adopt online self-service models.
  • Develop data dashboards and KPIs.

Sustain

Exit

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Initiative #2:

ESG

With the need for funding greater than ever before, building a sustainable, resilient, and purpose-led organization can be difficult when competing with other causes for limited resources. Although NPOs don't have the same internal incentives to address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues as for-profit organizations, they still operate within the wider ESG pressures faced by all organizations, and now is the time to ingrain these standards in their operating procedures to amplify their impact.

NPOs are accountable to all types of stakeholders, from donors and boards of directors to their volunteers and employees and government agencies. In this context, transparency is essential. An effective ESG program is integral to maintaining and creating sustainable organizational value and impact.

BDO can help you design, implement, and monitor
your ESG programs. Connect with us today.

Here are some key areas we can help your organization with ESG challenges:

Grow

Sustain

  • Conduct a risk evaluation.
  • Establish an inclusion, equity, and diversity (IE&D) strategy and reporting structure. Watch our video on IE&D for NPOs.

Evolve

  • Develop strong ESG policies and practices that integrate into your organizational model.
  • Strengthen your social responsibility initiatives.

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Initiative #3:

Strategic direction

With the need for funding greater than ever before, building a sustainable, resilient, and purpose-led organization can be difficult when competing with other causes for limited resources. Although NPOs don't have the same internal incentives to address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues as for-profit organizations, they still operate within the wider ESG pressures faced by all organizations, and now is the time to ingrain these standards in their operating procedures to amplify their impact.

NPOs are accountable to all types of stakeholders, from donors and boards of directors to their volunteers and employees and government agencies. In this context, transparency is essential. An effective ESG program is integral to maintaining and creating sustainable organizational value and impact.

Looking for support with your strategic planning?
Connect with us today.

Here’s how we can help you solve strategic challenges:

Incubation

  • Develop a comprehensive startup strategy.
  • Refine your mission and give-back program.

Grow

  • Formulate a strategic roadmap.
  • Evaluate and implement marketing models.
  • Advance your communication strategy.

Evolve

Sustain

  • Re-evaluate the goals of your organization.

Exit

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Initiative #4:

Finance and accounting

Financial management of a not-for-profit organization involves more than just reporting and accounting—it also requires forward-looking budgeting and spending policies, an efficient way to collect donations, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. The intricacies of NPO reporting standards and filing parameters are often overlooked, and smaller organizations may not have the resources to ensure financial reporting quality is consistent and reliable. An added challenge for all NPOs, no matter the size, is doing all this while minimizing fraud exposure. 

A holistic, 360-degree understanding of how your operations are performing will help you make informed decisions about where your money is going and how much funding you should apply for in future years, allowing you to nimbly make bold moves and invest in growth projects.

Looking for support with your organization’s finance
or accounting? Connect with us today.

Here’s how we can help your NPO enhance its finance and accounting responsibilities:

Incubation

Grow

Sustain

Evolve

  • Audit services.

Exit

  • Support the transfer of assets to another NPO and work through the tax and accounting implications.

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Initiative #5:

Revenue and funding

Funding will always be a key concern for NPOs. While driving profit is not the key focus for aid organizations, more funding means more opportunity to do good, hire the right people, and expand your mission. Funding forecasting and reporting are key to understanding the health of your organization and whether you’re meeting your goals.

While revenue sources have stayed the same for a long time, the way you raise funds, the types of donors you attract, and where those funds come from are all changing. Traditionally, NPOs have been funded by donations, government grants, bequests, and membership fees, but there is a growing trend toward the use of alternative funding methods, from an increase in private philanthropy to digital platforms driving funding. NPOs that are constantly pushing to find innovative ways to drive funding and engage a new generation of constituents will flourish.

Looking for support with your organization’s
funding? Connect with us today.

Here are some of the ways we can help your organization with revenue and funding challenges:

Grow

  • Forecast revenue.
  • Leverage new revenue sources.

Evolve

Sustain

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Initiative #6:

Human resources

Talent is a strategic asset and one of the most critical components in achieving organizational objectives. But as competition for top talent increases, NPOs need to address gaps and adapt to changing expectations to remain competitive. While mission-driven organizations have typically attracted talent looking to do good, human resources (HR) teams require guidance and direction as their organization grows. Structure and consistency in HR management processes are essential to attract and retain high-performing people.

Looking for support with HR challenges? Connect with us today.

Here are some of the ways we can help your organization with HR challenges:

Grow

  • Hire skilled team members.

Evolve

Sustain

  • Evaluate team performance.
  • Develop employee wellness initiatives.
  • Set up a step-by-step accountability matrix for your leaders and projects.

Connect with us today

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