“I find myself constantly feeling I’m inside a forest, just hacking my way through a forest with a machete. There’s no path. I have to make my own path with what I have. I feel completely alone.”
Aaron Titus, founder of Crisis Cleanup echoed a sentiment that many within the nonprofit community find themselves. Mainly, that we are often thrown into a world that we are utterly unprepared to deal with. We have our hearts’ in the right place, but non-profit organizations need more than heart. They need income, manpower, and exposure.
Having to suddenly face these issues without any idea how to do so can make even the most heartfelt of philanthropists feel alone. This was something that Aaron Titus understood all too well and planned ahead when creating his own organization. This, is the advice he offers to new/local charities:
Identify a revenue stream
As much as we hate to say it, a good cause isn’t going to be enough to make a difference in this world. In order to truly make a difference, you’re going to need money. With that, it’s going to be essential to know where your money is going to come from. Unless you want to have your non-profit transform into a profit-based organization, then your two streams of revenue will either come from the government, or donations.
Identify your value
There are hundreds of charities that get created every year. In order to get money/attention in your community, you need to show the world your charity is unique. Is your cause special? Great. Chances are 50 other charities are fighting for that same cause. Ergo, you need to further distinguish yourself. Is your branding aesthetic different? What about the way you distribute funding? Find ways to make your charity valuable in a crowded market.
Understand that you are competing in a broken market
Charities are in a broken market. A broken market does not mean that there is zero money involved, it’s all about the relationship of the business and its clients. In a broken market, you have to have the beneficiary of your service be different from the entity providing value on their behalf. You need a third party to provide that value. That third party is always philanthropy or government. You aren’t the only charity around, and because of that, this market often looks more like baby birds begging for worms rather than a healthy economy.
Utilize social media to your advantage
Social media often seems like an after thought for most charities. However, in today’s digital landscape having an online presence is the most essential thing you can do to get noticed by the public. Success isn’t going to come instantly, but slowly building an online presence is like planting a seed. It will be the surest way to gain steady support in the long run.
Understand that stopping is the harder option.
In Aaron’s own words, “So much of doing good is driven, not by the warm fuzzies of doing good, but by that internal pain of stopping.” If you were to stop doing what you’re doing, then you would stop helping people, and that knowledge will always be more people than quitting.