Virtual Nonprofit: Thinking Beyond One Community
Imagine you are a nonprofit leader with a proven model of helping people. Your model could be addressing human trafficking, prison re-entry or working with youth. Your unique model is
recognized locally and on occasion you have requests to go to expand into another area but it seems beyond your financial means. The idea of going to another city, finding office space, hiring staff, training them to your program design, mission, values and possibly transplanting your key staff to another city is exhausting. When you pencil out the costs and think of your current challenges of fundraising, you lower your expectations of expansion and your dream withers away.
What if there was a better way?
Welcome to the world of the Virtual Nonprofit. It’s a progressive idea that could help you
expand to the next city. We would suggest there are 5 key steps: private, place, people, plan and promote.
You need to get away by yourself. Changing locations changes perspective and to
accomplish this, you need to change your outlook. Take at least two days and find a place
where you won’t be distracted and dream big. Make it a green light session; don’t stop any
dreams because of money, time, staff or other limitations. Ask yourself- If money wasn’t an
issue, what would I want to accomplish? Looking ten years in the future, how could this
unique model help people? What was my dream when I first started developing this model?
Dream big and write it all down..
What is the most strategic location to take this model? Why? Needs exist everywhere
so it’s important to be clear why you would choose one city over another? When you go into
a new place you will be asked, “Why did you decide on this community?” Beyond the need,
is it the potential of key partners, funders, industry? Maybe you were invited by a key contact
and they asked you to come to the city. Whatever the reason, it is important to be clear on
your rationale for coming to this particular city.
If you don’t have a starting place, then identify the groups that would be interested in your model and start a conversation with them.
Finding the right people in the community to work with is paramount. Much like
fundraising, “Good people, know good people” is the rule to follow. If you don’t have a
starting place, then identify the groups that would be interested in your model and start a
conversation with them. If you have an innovative model of working with the formerly
incarcerated, you would most likely want to meet with the Chief of Probation or Parole. You
have to do your research on the key individuals as well as the community. These key people
will have insight into potential partners and most importantly, give you a sense of the
receptivity of bringing your model to their community. Be open to working with a variety of
groups- some might not be in the traditional nonprofit realm; churches, and even business
associations might be good partners.
Travel to the prospective city is a necessity. Contact the key people you have
identified know that you are coming to their city and would like to meet with them. Let them
know your timetable and more about your model and the benefits you see it bringing to them
is important. Following up with emails and phone calls will give you a sense of the
receptivity of the stakeholders. Also- it is important to plan on time to drive the area and get
a sense of the city.
Once the decision has been made to expand into another area- its go time. Hire
the right team. Rely on your local contacts to help with the interviews and most importantly-
help the potential staff to understand the uniqueness of a Virtual Nonprofit. As with all start-
ups, there will be challenges but learn from the mistakes and promote the successes to local
The world is changing as a result of the pandemic and the innovation that will come from the
nonprofit realm will have long term benefits to those we are privileged to serve.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Virtual Nonprofit please contact us for a FREE 30-minute session at firstname.lastname@example.org