Smaller nonprofits play an important role in our communities. Small nonprofits (commonly defined as having an annual budget of $500,000 or less) tend to be hyper-local and have an intimate understanding of the needs in their community. They are also notable for their enthusiasm, know-how, and strong community connections.
Small Organization, Large Amount of Passion
Here at UncommonGood, we are inspired by the staff and volunteer passion we encounter in our partner nonprofits. Local people who are identifying local problems and providing uncommon solutions that are doing a lot of good.
There’s no stopping a group of people who are united around a common goal! Take our friends at Mothers for Others (MFO) for example. This small nonprofit supports the well-being of low and limited-income families by providing diapers for children from birth to three years old. MFO began in response to a lack of public funding for basic needs like diapers. Ten years ago, a group of mothers in southern Connecticut started hosting coffee gatherings to raise awareness and funds to purchase diapers which over time, led to diaper drives through schools and community organizations. This small group of women had so much passion behind the idea of a diaper bank that they made it a reality – that’s a lot of good at work!
Small Nonprofits Can Adjust
2021’s nonprofit word of the year was ‘pivot,’ and rightfully so. While you might have flashbacks to the Friends episode where they try to get a couch up the staircase, it effectively sums up how many organizations survived 2020-21. No matter the industry, chances are the smaller the organization, the more flexible they are.
Smaller nonprofits typically have less hierarchy which enables them to make decisions quickly. This flexibility allows for small nonprofits to take action quickly and adjust on the fly so that they are able to make an impact on the local community based on the current and ever-fluctuating needs of the community they serve. On the flip side, larger nonprofits have more red tape and processes to follow resulting in positive outcomes but with much longer lead times.
Primarily volunteer-run, Mothers for Others, quickly saw a spike in the need for diapers early in the pandemic. MFO Executive Director, Elizabeth Peyton, told us that when the pandemic hit their area, they had to adapt very quickly and make some decisions about how to continue operating. The volunteer board met and decided to double down on their commitment to MFO’s primary mission by choosing to accept only diapers and wipes and focusing their collective energy on expanding community partnerships. They also decided to stay open, which required delivering products directly to their partners instead of operating out of their distribution center.
‘For Mothers For Others, this new operating model is the future. It’s more efficient and easier on our clients,’ Elizabeth states. They were able to use the UncommonGood platform to tell their story, create graphics for social media, offer sweepstakes, and solicit for donations in one place. MFO’s outcomes prove that their flexibility and quick response time worked resulting in a 25% increase in distribution in 2020–that’s over 78,000 diapers! MFO ended 2021 having distributed 92,000 diapers and they are well on their way to surpassing that number by distributing 11,000 diapers monthly this year.
Proximity is Key for Nonprofits
MFO is an excellent example of local people recognizing local problems and developing common-sense solutions. Their volunteers live and work in the community they serve which enables them to have a real-time pulse on community needs. They also know who the trusted childcare providers are in the community and whom they need to partner with. There’s no substitute for being close to the volunteers, donors, and the people they serve. Being able to build relationships with stakeholders helps strengthen all aspects of a small nonprofit’s organization.
Mothers for Others is just one of the million small nonprofit organizations in the United States out there making a difference in their local communities. We encourage you to discover local nonprofits near you and find ways to help them continue to make a difference – whether it’s volunteering, donating, or using your skillset to get them more exposure. P.S. you can still support national nonprofits too! We’re just a tad biased 😉