As my time as the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center intern draws to a close, I’ve reflected on all I’ve learned about the nonprofit sector. Below are just a few highlights that I’m unlikely to ever forget.
Records Maintenance is Key
If there’s one very important thing I’ve learned about running programs at a nonprofit, it’s that you should ALWAYS maintain accurate records: attendance sheets, evaluations, etc. Not only do records help you evaluate and improve your programs, they’re usually required by funders. You think your program is “doing well” and deserves to be funded for another year? Show your statistics that prove this success!
Start-Ups Require Plans
If you’re starting or plan to start a nonprofit, have a plan in place! This is one of those no-brainers that actually requires way more work than most people realize. Before you incorporate your organization and reach for that 501(c)(3) status, do your best to think through every aspect of your business-esque plan. Where do you currently get your funding from, and are these sources sustainable? Have you formed a board of directors? Do you have concise mission and vision statements? I could go on; you all know that, I’m sure. My point is that by sitting in on various “501(c)(3) To Be or Not To Be” consultations here at the Center, I’ve learned that a vast amount of detail goes into preparation for a start-up. Let me tell you, I won’t be starting a nonprofit any time soon!
Professional Development is Ongoing
There’s a reason why we offer a variety of classes and programs here at the Center: professional development in the nonprofit sector is ongoing. Sure, we offer plenty of programs for those just entering nonprofits who are in need of basic guidance, but we also offer programs such as Boot Camp 2.0 which are geared toward nonprofit professionals who want to continue their growth. Entering a nonprofit does not mean that you automatically understand the ins and outs of the work; sustained growth requires ongoing professional development, which is a lifelong learning process. The sector is always changing, and we have to grow and adapt with it!
Passion Drives the Sector
This is, once again, basic knowledge that most nonprofit professionals probably know in their very core: passion drives this sector. It’s crucial in a field where employees are often over-burdened, wearing too many hats, and struggling to cobble together (usually restricted) funding from different sources. In reality this wasn’t news to me when I started my internship at the Center. Instead, I was impressed with the amount of passion I’ve seen here in the Allen County nonprofits. The professionals I’ve met have amazed me with their intense passion for helping the community. I feel extremely honored to have met and worked with such energized do-gooders!