The new nonprofit library

Lots of info, but is it up to date?

I’ve been working since last year with MissionBox, a website that provides a huge range of how-to guides, advice, case studies, feature articles and templates for nonprofits. As a startup, there’ve been a few shifts of direction along the way, but the site has just relaunched and it’s great to see it taking shape.

MissionBox is based in the US and one of the challenges has been making sure the content written by our American colleagues is relevant and accurate here in the UK. In some cases that has meant drafting separate/equivalent pieces — that goes for any legal or tax topics, but also some less obvious ones like the expectations of a nonprofit board, or working with foundations. In many other cases the principles are the same, so an article will just need a bit of extra UK context or perhaps a locally-relevant example.

We also need to look closely at the writing itself — something that highlights just how much the nations really are divided by a common language. Some terms that raise questions are sector-specific: a US nonprofit (not a charity, more commonly used in the UK) has constituents (not stakeholders), a board of directors (not trustees) and an executive director (not, more usual here, a chief executive). Others are more general: one piece I reviewed talked about ‘grooming’ a junior member of staff for a future leadership role, a term that has unfortunate connotations here. (We changed it to ‘nurtured’.)

But there are a lot of commonalities too — which is precisely the point of Missionbox, a site that aims ultimately to be useful across the English-speaking world. Not-for-profit organisations everywhere struggle with the same things: financial sustainability, finding and keeping the right people, and communicating what they do and why they’re needed. Yet sharing information about what works is notoriously difficult, even in a sector that values collaboration over competition (at least in principle — sometimes the reality is rather different), and even in an age where information is so easy to spread. The challenge, of course, is sifting through that information and figuring out what’s relevant, what’s accurate/reliable, and what’s most important. That’s only going to become more difficult (and therefore more of a business opportunity for savvy curators who can earn the trust of their readers): online content is expected to increase by 500% within the next five years. Yikes.

Read my pieces for MissionBox here; I also produce some technical articles working with experts on financial management, insurance, HR and more.


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