Why Your Nonprofit Should Embrace Best Practices and Strive for Excellence…in the Next Five Minutes

Would you consider the nonprofit you work for, or financially support, excellent? 

I don’t know too many people who would want to work for a mediocre organization or give money to an adequate agency. Do you? 

Okay, let’s get real…

  • Do you work or volunteer for an unexceptional nonprofit?
  • Are you a funder of uninspired agencies offering so-so programs and projects?  
  • Would you describe the professionals serving your nonprofit as expert?

 Excellence Guru Tom Peters says in his book, The Excellence Dividend:

“Excellence is the next five minutes.”

Okay, that’s pithy. But, what does that mean to the nonprofit you work for, fund, or serve?

For the Nonprofit

It means making the decision that you do not want to be unexceptional and will start to improve your operational competence… in the next five minutes. Start where you are now.

  • How can you treat your people better?
  • How can you improve your communications?
  • How can you level-up your products and services?

For the Funder

It means making the decision to stop funding uninspired agencies offering so-so programs and projects and telling them why… in the next five minutes. Start where you are now.

  • What nonprofits are you supporting?
  • Why are you funding them?
  • What can you do to help them become better?

For the Professional

It means making the decision to truly understand the needs and desires of the nonprofit you serve and doing just what’s expected… in the next five minutes. Start where you are now.

  • Should a minimum standard of performance be the quality of your service delivered?
  • How can you improve your service?
  • What does your nonprofit client really need?

The Solution is Two-Fold

The first part of the solution is an inner game and requires no investment to make. It is as simple as making the decision to name what is wrong and needs to be addressed (i.e., unexceptional, so-so, uninspiring, etc.) and point your toes in a new direction. If you are ready to make that decision, you have taken the first and most important step.

The second part is committing each step forward (or each next five minutes) towards the excellence you aspire to. In other words, creating an environment where you (and everyone around you) can become more than you/they have ever been before, more than you/they ever dreamed of. (More inspiration from Tom Peters.)

Excellence is the new way to do your business, with care and respect for others, moment by moment. 

The best way for a nonprofit to create this environment is to create an actionable plan to manage, measure, and improve the operational competence of your organization. There are six areas of operations in all nonprofits and best practices for all six areas. They are:

  1. Program Management & Accountability
  2. Fundraising, Marketing & Communications
  3. Governance, Legal & Risk Management
  4. Accounting & Financial
  5. People & Organizational Development
  6. Business Systems, IT & Facilities

Nonprofits need more funding. Funders need more confidence. More confidence comes from demonstrated operational competence. Nonprofits with higher levels of demonstrated competence give Funders more confidence. Funders with more confidence give Nonprofits more funding. You can measure and improve.

What is the first action you can make towards improving the nonprofit you work for, fund or serve… in the next five minutes?


Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Center. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different nonprofits, overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.