To Run A Successful Charity, Think Like An Entrepreneur

When you run a successful charity it is a lot like a startup. Here are three ways to incorporate entrepreneurial thinking into your charity.

If you think about it, when you run a charity it’s a lot like a startup. You need to start with a strong idea, understand your target market, and know your goals.

You also need particular skill sets, business savvy, and marketing expertise. Perhaps, more importantly, you need a good team and proven tactics to successfully lead your charity in efforts to serve its cause.

With that in mind, here are three ways to incorporate entrepreneurial thinking into your charity.


1. Leverage your network

First thing’s first, you probably don’t use your network as effectively as you could. No, I’m not talking about donors or volunteers. Think about your friends and family, influencers you may know personally, mentors and professional colleagues.

Basically, anybody you’ve met can be considered a part of your network. Whether you know it or not, they can all do a great deal to help further your cause. This can come in the form of referrals, advice, volunteer work and more.


2. Take inventory of your resources

What resources does your charity have on-hand? This could include any of the following:



Information: What do you know about your cause and your audience? What are the best ways to raise money for your charity? Which tactics should you avoid?

  • Finances: How will you raise core funding? How much money do you have to put towards projects? 

How will you cultivate a donor base? Which organizations are you competing with for donor dollars?

  • People: How many volunteers are in your employ? How many people help with events, and what skills do they possess?

  • Supplies: What material supplies do you need? This could include anything from A/V equipment to operational supplies like laptops and printer ink.


3. Learn what motivates your stakeholders

This probably the most important–and the most difficult to leverage. What drives people to support your cause, to volunteer their time and share their expertise? What is it about your mission that speaks to them? Why did they choose to align with you in order to serve it?


Photo: © julief514, YFS Magazine

Your vision, mission and core values are essential to the success of your charity.  For example, as Forbes writer Steve Odland shares, “vision is an inspiration and aspirational destination on the horizon. It should not include quantitative measures but descriptions of what you want to create. The mission is a more concrete description of purpose and intent.  It is a clear and concise expression of the basic purpose of the organization: what it does, for whom, and what is the basic service.  Missions should be complemented with specific, measureable, achievable, and challenging goals.  Also you should develop a set of values, the beacon by which your organization will be led.”

Simply put, a strong vision is what volunteers and employees alike will rally behind. Always keep your vision in sight. Pursue it as best you can, no matter the circumstances.


Change the world

When you run a successful charity it is a lot like a startup. Entrepreneurs have a lot more in common with people at the helm of charitable organizations than you’d think. Starting new every day is at the core of the entrepreneur’s mindset, and the rest–from vision to strategy–grows from there.


This article has been edited.

Brad Wayland is an entrepreneur, Chiefs fan and the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton, an on-demand t-shirt printing company. Connect with @BlueCotton on Twitter.


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