ENTREPRENEURSHIP / OCT. 07, 2014
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How to Build a Stakeholder Base for Nonprofits

Nonprofit corporations have it tough at times. Some of them are very high profile, receiving both publicity and donations that are more than enough to keep them running. Others, though, have to struggle. A public-benefit nonprofit corporation often has to work tirelessly on fundraising and eliciting donations. They exist to promote and further some educational, social, recreational, or charitable purpose. But they can’t do it alone. They need help. They need stakeholders.

Who are Stakeholders?

Stakeholders are the people and groups affected by or with an interest in something. In the case of a nonprofit, the stakeholders are the people working directly for the corporation, as well as those directly and indirectly affected by their work. They might be the people standing to directly benefit from charity work. In short, they have a “stake” of some sort in the nonprofit’s work.

Stakeholders might be individuals, groups, or even businesses. They share a common goal, even if it’s not their main one. They are the recipients of your work. Your community leaders and businesses. Other nonprofits. And anyone else who could contribute in some meaningful way.

How to Reach Them

Identifying the stakeholders for your nonprofit may not always be easy, but you should be able to highlight at least a few. If your nonprofit provided educational software to public schools for free, then your stakeholders are the teachers, school board trustees, and students. If your nonprofit is working to rejuvenate the downtown core, then your stakeholders are the businesses and residents already living there.

Identifying stakeholders is just step one. Once you know who they are, you still need to connect with them. Building a stakeholder base is crucial for a successful nonprofit. But how can you engage with them?

In short, anyway you can. And the modern world provides plenty of avenues.

First of all, there are traditional methods. Direct mail, informational packages, flyers, posters, and community outreach and events. Introduce who you are, what, and how you plan to make a difference. Using our two examples from above, you could create an informational brochure or pamphlet to send home with students. You could physically walk around the downtown core and meet the people that your work most directly stands to benefit. Introduce yourself and what you’re attempting to do. Hold a community get-together, event, picnic, potluck, or whatever. Invite everyone with a “stake” in your endeavour. Have an open-door policy at your physical location, and invite stakeholders to drop by any time they can. When people see the effort, time, and money you’re putting in for themselves, they are that much more likely to get involved.  

Secondly, don’t forget the amazing opportunities offered by the digital realm. A website complete with a weekly/monthly newsletter, frequently updated blog, about page, and contact details is a must in the modern age so that potential stakeholders can find out who you really are. Email campaigns (using email addresses collected via your direct mail campaign or sign-up sheet at your physical location) and social media simply cannot be ignored. Create a Facebook group and send out invitations to your stakeholders. However, don’t forget Twitter and all the other Social media platforms like Google+ and Pinterest.

Stakeholders are to nonprofits what customers are to for-profit businesses. You need them, and you go after them in much the same way. Rather than buying a product or service from you, you’re looking to convince them to “buy in” to your lofty purpose. Identify, connect, and engage as you would a customer. Once engaged, your stakeholders are primed to contribute in some way. Their time. Their effort. Or their money.

Why They Matter

Without a strong and sizeable stakeholder base, your nonprofit likely can’t fulfill its purpose ...whatever “it” is.

Nonprofits are dependent, to varying degrees, on money and help from others outside their corporation. They need donations. They need volunteers. They need stakeholders.

So part of your job is to find these people. Think of them as “customers” and it should be a lot easier to brainstorm ways to meet, greet, and connect with them.



image: istock

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