How Would Your Ministry Do On Nonprofit Shark Tank?

If your ministry were to appear on a nonprofit version of Shark Tank, would it get an investment from a Shark? Most nonprofit workers can’t answer the 7 questions entrepreneurs often face on the show. How about you?

SHARK TANK – Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner are the “Sharks” on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Photo courtesy of ABC/Patrick Ecclesine)

The small business entrepreneurs who appear on the reality TV show Shark Tank are passionate about the product or service they have created. Often it doesn’t make business sense, and the Sharks spot the weaknesses.

People doing nonprofit ministry are also passionate about what they do to help people. How well would your ministry stand up in a nonprofit version of Shark Tank?

Of course, nonprofits should be evaluated differently than businesses, but they are expected to achieve results.

Peter Drucker often said the bottom line of nonprofits is “changed lives.” The more lives changed the better. The deeper the positive change the better. It’s based on “changed lives” and not just finances that nonprofits should be measured.

7 Questions Nonprofits Would Answer On Shark Tank

Imagine your specific ministry were to appear on a new TV reality show, Nonprofit Shark Tank. After you briefly present your ministry strategy, the Sharks would ask you questions. Any hesitation and they will circle in and press you further for details. They won’t accept “church-speak” that vaguely describes your ministry as “catalyzing leaders for a lost world.” How would you fare?

Here are 7 questions to prepare your ministry for Nonprofit Shark Tank:

  1. What problem are you solving? Your answer, the service you offer, has to be specific and immediately describe a problem and your solution. If you are vague you’ll hear Robert Herjavec say, “I just don’t get it,” as he goes out.
  2. Who are you offering it to? “Everyone,” isn’t a good answer. Who, specifically, are you offering your ministry to? Single moms? Parents of teens? Unhappily married people? Young families? Recent immigrants? The clearer you are on who your audience is, the easier it is create services that will appeal to those people.
  3. Why are you the person to solve this problem? What is your or your organization’s unique story? How are you using that uniqueness to better serve people? For example, I do coaching training – so do many other people. My background, however, living cross-culturally for 20 years, working in nonprofit ministries, and not being naturally gifted in coaching gives me a unique voice with similar people. Use your background as a strategic advantage.
  4. How many lives have you changed already? Be ready to share data about your results. A favorite Mark Cuban comment is, “The numbers don’t lie.” What results do you measure? Attendance? Giving? Ok, but what’s your measurement for changed lives? If you’ve been doing your ministry with little results, you may have an admirable hobby.
  5. How committed are you? Many ministry leaders dabble. They do a little this, and a little that, hoping something will grow. Be ready for another Robert Herjavec challenge, “Until you invest yourself fully to this you’re never going to develop it into a viable ministry.”
  6. What’s your strategy to grow your results? The Sharks will want to hear your plans for growing the impact of your ministry. More changed lives. Deeper change. Your strategy needs to make sense to someone other than just you. Otherwise, you’ll hear Daymond John say, “I don’t see how you’re going to go from what you’re doing now, to what you say you want to happen. I’m out.”
  7. How scalable is this? Some ministry leaders are in love with their approach, message, or audience, but it just won’t scale. The world needs your ministry, so create a scalable strategy! How could your strategy be changed so the ministry could produce 2x growth? How about 10x? 100x? The organization’s ability to scale its work to reach more and more people is tied to finances. What financial structure will produce the growth you seek?

In an interview, Mark Cuban said the #1 reason people failed was, “Lack of effort. Lack of brains.” It takes effort and brains to work though these 7 questions.

You can’t answer these questions just once. Your ministry strategy needs to adjust as you grow to get a better response from your audience (more life change).

Are you ready to be featured on Nonprofit Shark Tank?

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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