Cosmic

How to Defeat the 3 Toughest Challenges All Nonprofits Face

Your organization needs to lead the cause conversation online, grow and sustain revenue streams, and mobilize supporters toward real-world action. Learn how.

Eric Ressler
February 9, 2021
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All nonprofit organizations face the same fundamental challenges regardless of their area of focus:

  1. 1.
    They struggle to be heard above the digital media noise
  2. 2.
    They are constantly searching for sustainable revenue streams
  3. 3.
    They’re looking for more ways to connect with, grow, and mobilize their supporters.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. We’ve called out three specific challenges that all social impact organizations wrestle with and solutions that can change the game.

To take you deeper into the challenges, we’ve aggregated articles that talk about them in-depth. But more importantly is how your nonprofit can break through and be the leaders in real-world change.

The crucial element to tackling any of these challenges is to embrace a digital-first media strategy. Social organizations must go all-in on becoming a digital-first organization, otherwise these challenges will remain in the way of you achieving your mission.

3 Tough Challenges for Every Nonprofit

1. Be seen and heard in the new attention economy.

Whether you like it or not, your nonprofit is competing for attention in a very loud and crowded digital space. You aren’t just competing with other nonprofits. You’re competing with Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the New York Times, HBO, and TikTok. Oh — and you’re also competing with major corporations, many of whom are adopting cause marketing with gusto. In other words, you’re competing with the entire Internet.

If you want to be heard, you must understand the way people consume information online. They are almost always online, but their attention is almost always divided. Moreover, the content they consume is often dictated by the algorithms to which they unwittingly submit. From search engine results pages (SERPs) to social media feeds, most of the content we encounter is now algorithmically curated. Between sender scores and promotions folders, not even your email inbox is untouched.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call the attention economy the “attention-and-algorithm” economy.

In summary, your audience’s attention is sparse and sporadic. And that’s assuming you find a way to make your organization’s content visible in the first place. One thing is certain: If your content marketing consists of nothing more than a sporadic email newsletter, before too long nobody will see — let alone read — your content at all.

In the attention-and-algorithm economy, your social impact organization must act as a digital media outlet to be consistently seen and heard. That means strategically producing excellent content and sharing it to the right channels. Whatever you do, don’t forget to take time to make your content visually powerful and user friendly. Your content, like your brand, must be well-designed to rise to the top.

Further Reading:

4 Scroll-Stopping Digital Experiences to Inspire Your Nonprofit's Content

How to use Crowdsourcing to Fuel Your Nonprofit's Digital Content Strategy

How Your Purpose, Vision, and Mission Can Guide Better Brand Storytelling

8 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit Storytelling Stand Out

The Design-Driven Mandate: For Today's Nonprofits, Design Determines Impact

2. Grow and diversify funding sources.

Nonprofits caught in the starvation cycle are overly dependent on the same small group of funders to keep their programs running. This puts them in a perennially vulnerable position. And depending on funders’ particular restrictions and special interests, this vicious cycle can even skew nonprofits’ efforts and prevent them from freely investing in the right programs and methodologies.

To break the cycle, your organization must expand and diversify its funding sources. To do that, you must reach a larger audience and share proof of impact. In addition, you must think creatively about how best to engage individual and major donors alike. Just as digital media outlets use subscription models to support their journalism or content creation efforts, nonprofits must explore more sustainable alternatives to one-and-done donations.

Further Reading:

8 Signs Your Nonprofit is Starving — and How to Get the Financial Nourishment it Needs

Funders: Your Obligation to Social Impact Goes Beyond Giving Money

Prove it or Lose it: Why Proof of Impact Matters in the Social Impact Space

How to Embrace (and Own) Your Nonprofit’s Digital Fundraising

3. Enlist and mobilize supporters to create sustained change.

Like the work you do, the change you wish to create can’t happen in a vacuum. That’s true whether your organization intervenes at the local or global level. From fundraising to activism, the further you broadcast your message, the greater your impact can be. Quietly plugging away at your program work in support of even the most visible cause simply isn’t enough to make sustained change happen.

This challenge scales along with your mission. If you want to create system-wide change, you must build a broad base of support, activism, and collective effort. You’ll never do that if you can’t effectively spread your message. Developing communication tools, educational information, and a team of advocates is the foundation to all lasting, systems-level change.

The only way to mobilize your supporters and allies is to engage them. The most effective, efficient way to do that? With a steady supply of fresh, valuable content that frames your issue in human terms, offers proof of impact, and calls your audience to intentional action.

Further reading:

Inspire Your Supporters to Drive Change with a Digital Action Center,

In 2021's Digital-First Culture, Sustained Progress is Up to Your Organization,

Want to Move the Needle on Your Cause? Start By Mobilizing Your Nonprofit's Supporters,

To Solve the World’s Problems, Start by Building Consensus

Your Nonprofit’s Power to Drive Change Depends on the Strength of Your Digital Presence

You can no longer get by without a robust online presence and expect to drive the systems-level change you work to achieve. You have the opportunity to lead the conversation, grow and sustain your revenue stream, and mobilize your supporters to take real-world action.

Functioning as a digital-first organization empowers and equips you to do all of that — and more.

You have the ability to affect real-world change at your fingertips. What are you waiting for?

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