Tips for Managing Your Small Non- Profit Organization

Published on 4th March 2020

There are usually many people involved with running small, non-profit organisations’ in a variety of roles. Non-profit organisations can range from a children&’s sports team to well-established International charitable organisations. The management varies as well from organised governance structures with a board to one or two people who double up as Admin, HR and Finance usually overwhelmed with work.

Here are some tips to help you and your organisation become more effective and successful.

1. Define Non-profit

The most important thing to note is that non-profit does not mean for-loss. You need funds to run a business. The real difference between a non-profit and a for-profit business is the key word ‘profit’. For profits usually generate an amount being the difference between funds that come in and what goes out. This Profit can then be distributed to shareholders as dividends, used to pay employee bonuses or
reinvested into the business. Nonprofits on the other hand do not have shareholders. The ‘profit’ is usually used to build reserves or reinvested into the business to achieve its primary objective. It is important to note that a nonprofit does not equal to a pro loss making organisation, making this distinction can help to set the tone and culture of the organisation from the onset.

2. Planning

One of the most helpful tools in any organisation is planning. Plans work best if they are well thought through with contingencies as well as being reviewed on an ongoing basis. The level of detail in your plans and the amount of time spent planning will depend on the size of your organisation and what it is you do. When planning, always start with the end goal in mind. Set a target and Identify specific goals that you
want to reach. Again, depending on your size and the nature of your organization, your planning time frame will vary. If you are just getting started with planning, you may tend to short term planning. As you become more experienced with the planning, you can extend your time horizon out a little further and plan mid to long term. Plans tend to comprise of two main parts; the goals you want to achieve, and how you are going to reach them. When working on a two-year plan, the goals will define where you want to be and what you want to be doing two years from now. For example, if you are a service type organisation that feeds homeless people, your goal may be that two years from now you will provide two meals a day to 500 individuals, up from one meal a day to 100 individuals.

Once you set these goals, you have to identify how you will achieve them. If you are going to increase from one meal a day to two meals a day, you may need more volunteers. you have to determine how you will get additional volunteers and this may be by advertising, applying for additional grants, or hiring a volunteers’ coordinator. Whatever the steps are to reach this goals, you need to write them down so
that everyone knows what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing it.

When you plan, you have to monitor your progress against that plan. It is not prudent to wait until the end of the plan’s defined time period to see whether you achieved the goals that you were aiming for. You want to monitor progress along the way, so that if things are not going as expected you can make adjustments to get back on track. And if things are going as planned, you can focus on the other areas that need more attention and not waste time on things that are working well. Another benefit of planning is that you have a benchmark to evaluate new or unexpected opportunities.

3.Board of Directors

It is best practice to appoint a board of directors whose job it is to guide and set the direction of the organisation. The question is who should be on the board. This can be difficult because the people, or type of people, who should be on the board are not necessarily the people who actually will be on the board for a variety of reasons. Many times it is difficult, if not impossible to attract the people that you
want on the board. One reason for this is that the people who make the best board members are already on other boards, and they only have so much time.

A good place to start is by stating what you want, Identify the skills and attributes of your ideal board members. The job of a board member is often a thankless and time-consuming job, so you have to really market it. State the benefits of being on your board and tell the people why you want them to help you. If you are passionate about your organisation, then potential board members will pick up on that and
that may be incentive enough to get them to help you.

One thing you absolutely have to do is define the roles and responsibilities of the board members and communicate these to your board members. Even if they are pretty simple and seem obvious, doing this is vital to your success.


You will have meetings. Your board will have board meetings and you might have staff meetings, volunteer meetings, general members’ meetings or other types of meetings. Always have a defined agenda. Distribute the agenda prior to the meeting so that everyone knows what
is going to be discussed. Stick to the agenda, set a defined meeting length and assign a time to each agenda item.

Alongside the agenda, define the expected results of the meeting. This means defining what will be accomplished by the end of the meeting. A simple expectation is to discuss each agenda item and vote on all items that need to be voted on. Depending on the reason for the meeting and the agenda items under discussion, you may have other expectations of what is to be accomplished.

Board of directors’ meetings are inherently different to other types of meetings. The board sets high level policy and direction, so the board meetings are similarly high level. Most of the work of the board is done outside the board meetings. Information and results of external factors are presented, a synopsis is drawn, final discussions on important topics are had, and items are voted on. There should be very few surprises at a board meeting. Most of the information should have been distributed and analysed beforehand. If you currently address issues for the first time at board meetings, you can immediately become more effective as an organization by making the changes outlined above.

5. Volunteers

Volunteers tend to be the backbone of most nonprofit organisations. Without committed volunteers, it can difficult to accomplish the reach that one desires. All volunteers should have defined roles, no matter how simple their task is. Train all your volunteers. Training should include the specific tasks that the volunteers will be undertaking, as well as the mission, vision, and policies of the organisation.

Recognise and reward your volunteers. Some organisations are very good at this, but others take their volunteers for granted and fail to offer the necessary recognition and rewards. This is not usually by design, but from neglect. No matter how busy you are, we advise that you take the time to praise your volunteers for all the hard work they are doing.

Do not overwhelm your volunteers. Some people cannot say no. Do not let them take on more work than they should. Some people are driven to help and are almost impossible to hold back. Hold them back. They will be more valuable to you in the long term and their health, mental and physical is of paramount importance.

6.Accounting and Record Keeping

Keep records, but Keep good records. Your record keeping system will depend on the size and complexity of your organization. You may have a notebook, receipt book, and bank statements or you may need a full-blown management system that includes accounting and financial information, sales and customer relations systems, manufacturing, warehousing, and inventory systems. Use what is appropriate for you. If necessary, hire skilled professionals to do the job. Part-time administrative help and consultants like Findev Consulting Limited can help to provide a sound base when starting up Set up controls. This involves putting in systems to prevent, detect wrongdoing or impropriety.

For example, if your organisation has a checkbook, you should limit the number of people who have access to the checks and who can write the checks. It is a good idea to have different people who control the checkbook and have the authority to sign the checks. This is called segregation of duties. When you set up good controls, you should regularly conduct audits to assess how well they are functioning.


Go out and do good things. Put a little effort into the planning and infrastructure of your organisation and you will reap the rewards in the long run. Keep the level of effort and complexity appropriate to your organisation and try to keep sight of when it is time to add more formalities to your systems.

Findev Consulting Limited is a UK based consultancy that provides grant management training to NGOs and civil society organisation. We have worked with numerous nonprofits across 3 continents, focusing on proposal development, strategic planning and project evaluation.

Sign up to our newsletter today for access to resources, newsletters, blogs and financial management tools!