How to successfully run a nonprofit

Updated June 16, 2021 - 9:17 am

A nonprofit organization is still a business. Here are a few tips on making an impact, while running a successful nonprofit:

• Any business starts with a good team. Trusting your team and empowering them to make decisions allows leaders to focus on the bigger picture. It is important to fully understand and clearly define each team member’s role to achieve your goals — ambiguity can lead to missed opportunities. Finding people as passionate as you are about your mission makes all the difference.

• Though it is a nonprofit, run it like a business. Yes, you are doing a great thing, in the case of Ants in the Pants, we are teaching fundamental writing through theatre, games and writing activities to as many students as we can regardless of their ability to pay, but we do have to find that money somewhere. We are constantly looking for grants, sponsors, donations and other creative ways to raise funds. You have to hustle and tell your story, get people excited to help and donate. We are selling a product for the greater good, but we are still selling a product. I always remind myself: If I want to keep helping children create and get excited about creating, we must think like a business.

• Be true to yourself and your vision. When you are launching a nonprofit, you will meet many people who will ask: “Why start one if there’s no money in it.” But if your passion is helping kids and offering them creative outlets, then do it! If you are passionate about serving your community, you can find a way to do so. Stay committed to success by providing an outlet/service/option that does not currently exist. Kids acting is already available, kids writing and creating for professional performers was not.

• Know when you need to make a change. Like with any business, you have to be adaptable because life and the world has a way of throwing curve balls at you. Not just with the pandemic, which led us to offer virtual workshops, but to reach more kids we had to think about students who might be home schooled or untraditional school environments. That led us to offer at home classes and gave us another way to extend our reach. Do not let fear stop you from making changes; that will just stop you from growing.

Rebecca Kernes is the executive director of Ants in the Pants Productions. She is originally from Chicago and has a master’s degree in performing arts, she can be seen and heard in various television shows, films, commercials and audio books. Three years ago, she decided to start Ants in the Pants as she missed educational children’s theatre and wanted to give back to the community.

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