Tailoring Nonprofit Growth Strategies to Your Organization

by | Dec 20, 2022 | Strategic Planning

Most nonprofits we know are always looking to grow their impact. Which means constantly assessing nonprofit growth strategies and trying to pinpoint the right one.

Surprisingly, a mouthwatering article about handmade Sicilian panettone sheds some light for nonprofit leaders navigating this process.

It turns out that this particular Sicilian baker isn’t just a baker. He’s an innovator. Why? Because panettone is traditionally manufactured in Northern Italy. Instead of abiding by conventional wisdom, this baker took a leap. He’s not only baking panettone in Sicily but tailoring the ingredients to reflect the island’s unique culture and assets.

Besides sounding delicious, Sicilian panettone is a great reminder of why it’s so important to go beyond conventional wisdom and tailor nonprofit growth strategies for your organization.


What Are Nonprofit Growth Strategies?

Nonprofit growth strategies are generally designed around the goal of increasing your organization’s impact.

This can entail:

  • Raising more money
  • Expanding successful programs
  • Adding new programs
  • Hiring more staff
  • Strengthening internal operations
  • Investing in new technology

Often, nonprofit leaders focus on the first four elements, forgetting just how critical nonprofit infrastructure is for long-term sustainability. Read more about nonprofit infrastructure.

In addition to infrastructure, plenty of factors can affect your organization’s ability to grow sustainably. For example:

  • Funding. Do you have a funding gap—or have you raised extra income? Is your donor pipeline strong or are you losing renewals faster than you’re bringing on new donors? If you increase spending, do you have the donor pipeline to sustain those costs?
  • Staff capacity and expertise. Can you draw from existing internal resources or do you need to make new hires?
  • Market and need for your services. Is there a documented need for expanded programs and services? Or are you growing just for growth’s sake?
  • Whether your organization is ready. Not every organization is ready to grow. And growing too soon or too quickly can cause long-term crises.


Panettone and the Power of Tailored Approaches

Going back to our example of the Sicilian baker, Nicola Fiasconaro, let’s break down the process of how he grew his business. First, he identified the conventional wisdom:

“Nobody was making panettone in Sicily. …But I thought that panettone should not only come from Milan, Piedmont or Veneto, where that kind of baking school was born.”

Then, he sought to figure out how he, as a Sicilian baker, could put a new spin on the classic cake.

“Northern culture, but Southern ingredients… The second year I started putting local hazelnuts in it. In the beginning, when I brought my panettone to Milan or Verona, it was hard to talk about my local ingredients, but after just a short time, one or two years, they started to like it.”

What’s great about this example is that Fiasconaro didn’t simply reproduce panettone from the north. He found a way to add a unique Sicilian flare. When you’re developing growth strategies for your nonprofit, you’ll want to do the same.


Developing Growth Strategies for Your Nonprofit


  1. Start with a strategic plan. A strategic plan serves as a roadmap for your organization’s future. A good strategic plan will map the challenges and opportunities ahead for your organization and ensure your programs are aligned with your vision and mission. It will also outline what your organization aims to achieve over the next 3-5 years and how you plan to get there. Plus, a strategic plan serves as a strategic decision-making framework, helping you evaluate opportunities for growth as they emerge.


  1. If you don’t have a strategic plan. What if you don’t have a strategic plan? Well, we recommend investing in one right away. But if you’re evaluating nonprofit growth strategies in the moment, we recommend ensuring you are clear on what makes your organization unique (such as the Sicilian twist on panettone). You’ll also want to assess your organization’s current capacity, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, if your development team is strapped and revenue is down, you might need to pause on that program expansion you were hoping to launch.


  1. Set measurable objectives. Evaluation is key to growth. At Funding for Good, we recommend always setting measurable objectives and building evaluation methods into your projects and programs from the get-go. If you’re pursuing nonprofit growth strategies, measurable objectives and regular evaluation will be your best friends. To grow impact successfully and efficiently, you need to know what’s working and what isn’t.


  1. Don’t be afraid to step back from unsuccessful programs. Take the time to evaluate your organization’s work regularly. If an initiative isn’t meeting objectives, first see if you can course correct. If not, don’t be afraid to cut programs that aren’t having an impact. This way, you can deploy that same internal capacity toward more effective strategies.


Nonprofit Growth is Hard Work, But Also Exciting

While growing your nonprofit’s impact and sustainability is tough work, it’s also incredibly exciting. It’s an opportunity to try new things, learn, and adapt. So here’s to translating the wisdom of Sicilian bakers into growth for your nonprofit.

Looking for more resources on nonprofit capacity building? Check out our 2023 Webinar Series: Growing with Intent.

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