Building a strong not-for-profit through sponsorship, digital transformation and governance

Operating in the Not-For-Profit (NFP) sector presents many challenges. Change is constant. So too is the pressure to raise funds, the impacts of government policy, and the changing demographics and expectations that affect not-for-profits on a daily basis.

We were proud to sponsor the recent Project Management Day of Service event, a one-day problem-solving event that matched NFP organisations with business management professionals to analyse the challenges facing their organisation, and identify how to address and overcome these issues.

Several of BDO’s project management experts volunteered their time to provide advice on a broad range of matters affecting the NFP sector, including technology procurement and transformation, revenue generation, marketing strategies, environmental and financial sustainability, and governance, to name just a few.

The day also provided an opportunity to gain a unique and personal insight into the NFP community, with the full gamut of NFP organisations involved - from disability service providers, educational institutions and charities to healthcare, membership organisations and sporting and community clubs

Despite the diversity of participants, three prominent themes emerged over the course of the day that clearly resonated with all who operate within the NFP environment:

  1. Approaching and securing sponsorship
  2. Digital platforms and transformation
  3. Strategy and governance frameworks.

Approaching potential sponsors

For most NFPs and charities, securing sponsorship is one of the most valuable – and necessary – steps you can take to support the positive growth of your organisation.

Navigating the world of sponsorship opportunities takes careful consideration and preparation. It can be easy to fall into the trap of seeking sponsorship just to solve an immediate financial need.  

Rather, you need to approach potential sponsors as if you were entering a business arrangement. Show them why they should consider you for sponsorship, the benefits you bring to the table and how your charity or NFP aligns with their strategy and direction - and vice versa.

Many organisations often have defined criteria or metrics they need to report against, or adhere to, in order to get sponsorship proposals across the line.

As a result, it can be difficult to understand what level of detail or information you need to include in your sponsorship submission to ensure you are best placed to tick all the required boxes - particularly as no two organisations are the same.

To help you navigate the proposals journey, we suggest implementing the below four-stage roadmap:

  1. Mapping – Identify what your organisation is about, its value proposition, and strategic alignment
  2. Investment – Create a single, cohesive voice and develop a guide and framework for investment
  3. Growth – Champion the sponsorship framework and diversification of opportunities
  4. Sustainability – Outline how you are committed to continuous improvement and ongoing adaption.

Mapping out this journey will help you to understand what you offer to both your potential sponsors and the community. It will also help identify potential organisations that align with your values and the sponsorship opportunities available.

In return, potential sponsors will gain a greater understanding of how your NFP aligns with their values, allowing them to carefully analyse if your organisation is a good fit for their corporate philanthropy. 

Identifying appropriate digital platforms and transformation

A common hurdle many charities and NFPs face is limited budgets. Operating within a tight financial environment doesn’t always allow you to purchase the newest and greatest software or systems you may need to successfully manage your working environment.

This can often lead to a significant amount of manual handling from yourself or others within your organisation, slow processes and the heightened risk of human error.

When looking for and selecting a new system or software upgrade, it can be easy to get carried away when determining what the new system requires. While you may have your own set of desired requirements, so do others in your organisation. 

The more stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, the more you find your requirements list expanding. This can then often lead you in the direction of a system that is a gold-plated version - and one that is vastly outside your initial budget estimates.

While creating a wish list of requirements for your ideal software system is a good start to identifying what you may need, it can also be challenging - the additional requirement costs can very quickly add up.

The key to this process is to identify what is considered a ‘must have’ verse what is ‘a nice to have.’

Challenge yourself to consider what your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is – what is the absolute minimum software or system requirements you must have to keep your business running? Once you’ve identified these, anything that falls outside of your MVP should be considered a ‘nice to have.’

While it might be tricky to narrow this list down, by undertaking the process, you will soon be able to refine what you truly need and ensure the systems assessed are fit-for-purpose.

Implementing strategy and governance frameworks

Typically, in a corporate environment, initiatives and projects are established with consistent, fit-for-purpose governance frameworks which align with corporate strategy.

While a similar process is undertaken within charities and not-for-profits, there tends to be variances in documentation between initiatives. This quite often depends on who put the documents together.

As an NFP, ensuring consistency when it comes to performance monitoring of your projects and keeping up-to-date and accurate governance reporting is of paramount importance.

The earlier a project or initiative is identified as potentially going off-track, the easier, quicker, and less costly it is to rectify or adjust its trajectory.

Not identifying a project is on course for failure until six months down the line could result in a significant amount of time and effort spent on something that isn’t meeting what your organisation was originally looking to achieve.

If you find yourself in this position, we recommend you start addressing these issues by taking a more commercial acumen approach and working to develop and enhance this acumen across your entire organisation.

Just because you are an NFP organisation, doesn’t mean you should be running in a non-commercial manner.

How we can help

At BDO, our NFP specialists are experts in supporting a strong NFP sector that is ready to embrace and thrive in a challenging environment. 

To learn more about planning for achievable and sustainable growth, or to discuss the right strategies for your NFP, get in touch with your local adviser.