How a Holistic Human Approach Can Improve Nonprofit Success

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By Gary Pettengell, ECINS 

Nonprofit and aid organizations are working tirelessly to address some of society’s most pressing social needs. Whether they are helping individuals and families navigate the far-reaching implications of the COVID-19 pandemic or are supporting systemic issues like homelessness or opioid abuse, their efforts are critical to helping people live better, more fulfilling lives. 

At the same time, many nonprofits experienced surging caseloads in the past year, challenging them to rethink their mission, vision, and operational capacity. In many ways, this demanding moment is an opportunity for nonprofits to grow and mature, improving their ability to support their core clients.

However, their impact is limited when they operate in specialized silos, meeting one need but ignoring others. For instance, people experiencing homelessness frequently face other obstacles, like substance abuse or mental health challenges, that are interrelated to their housing instability. A holistic human approach can improve nonprofit success, allowing them to excel at their core mission while connecting people to resources and support services that help them thrive. 

As nonprofits recalibrate and prepare to thrive in the year ahead, here are three ways they can adopt a holistic human approach and a collaborative ethos to promote better outcomes. 

1 Develop a One Front Door Intake Process

Asking for help is hard. Social stigma, physical limitations, and psychological barriers prevent many people from seeking the support they need. As Garret Keizer, author of Help: The Original Human Dilemma, notes, “There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency…There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt.”

To best support their clients, nonprofits need to recognize and appreciate this reality by undertaking initiatives to simplify onboarding opportunities. Specifically, a One Front Door policy allows people to use a single access point to seek help for a wide variety of issues. This streamlines the process of help-seeking, lowering the barrier to entry while matching the right support to the right person. 

In other words, a One Front Door intake process promotes a holistic human approach to nonprofit success by making it easier for people to ask for help.

2 Collaborate to Address Ancillary Care Issues

Collaboration is critical to a holistic human approach to client support. 

For starters, an effective One Front Door intake process requires close collaboration with other nonprofits, government agencies, and aid organizations. In addition, nonprofits will need to collaborate within their communities, incorporating from education to housing and employment, rehabilitation, health and human services professionals to achieve better results. 

Advancements with nonprofit digital transformation and collaborative technology makes this easier than ever before. With automated onboarding solutions that provide fully digital, customizable online forms for easy onboarding and data collection, nonprofits can quickly assess and share someone’s needs. By making client information accessible through secure online platforms, nonprofits can share information in real-time, ensuring that people don’t have an opportunity to fall through the cracks. 

When nonprofits build strong community partnerships and cross-sector connections, they are best positioned to put a holistic human approach into action.

3 Expand Access to Early Intervention Resources

Powered by collaboration, nonprofits adopting a holistic human approach to care are positioning themselves to support a wide variety of needs. They are also better positioned to implement early intervention tactics that help people before their circumstances are dire. 

For instance, nonprofits can leverage case management software and community engagement to generate data-driven insights into warning signs of various care needs. When coupled with effective community engagement, information sharing patterns, and collaborative relationships, nonprofits can expand access to early intervention resources both within their organization and through strategic partnerships. 

As some nonprofits face surging demand and diminishing resources, early intervention resources can help them do more with less without neglecting their core mission, vision, and values. 

Maximum Human Flourishing 

Nonprofits are working tirelessly to meet this challenging moment with programs, resources, and support that help people flourish. As demand increases, they can grow their capacity to respond by developing a holistic human approach to care, supporting the whole person to achieve core organizational objectives. 

Highly effective information gathering, collaborative relationships, and early intervention techniques will be essential to their success, maximizing their impact when it matters most. 

Author Bio: 

Gary PettengellGary Pettengell is CEO of ECINS (Empowering Communities through Integrated Network Systems), a purpose-built, cloud-based, highly collaborative case management system.  To commemorate its launch in the United States, the team behind ECINS is allocating $500,000 of free software services and subscriptions to eligible U.S. nonprofits as part of a new pilot program. For over 20 years, ECINS has been used by organizations worldwide to improve the lives of vulnerable people and empower the practitioners who serve them. Created on the belief that when people work together they can achieve more, ECINS is capable of solving just about any case management problem that exists. Connect with Gary on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter @ECINSNews. Learn more about ECINS’ U.S. Pilot Program by visiting 


What Does a Human Approach in Nonprofits Entail?

A human approach in nonprofits involves focusing on personal connections, empathy, and genuine engagement with donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and the community.

How Can a Human Approach Enhance Donor Relationships?

This approach can create more meaningful relationships with donors by recognizing their contributions in a personal way, understanding their motivations, and maintaining regular, sincere communication.

Why Is Empathy Important in Nonprofit Management and Operations?

Empathy allows nonprofit teams to better understand and address the needs of their beneficiaries, fostering trust and stronger relationships with the community they serve.

How Can Nonprofits Demonstrate Authenticity and Transparency to Stakeholders?

Authenticity and transparency can be demonstrated through open communication about goals, challenges, and achievements, and by being honest and accountable in all interactions.

What Role Does Personalized Communication Play in Nonprofit Success?

Personalized communication makes stakeholders feel valued and understood, increasing engagement, loyalty, and the likelihood of ongoing support.

How Can Storytelling Be Used as a Human Approach in Nonprofits?

Storytelling can powerfully convey the impact of the nonprofit’s work, connect emotionally with audiences, and bring real-life examples of success and challenges.

What Is the Impact of a Human Approach on Volunteer Engagement?

A human approach can make volunteers feel appreciated and connected to the cause, increasing their commitment, satisfaction, and likelihood of long-term involvement.

How Does Focusing on Individual Stories Help in Fundraising?

Focusing on individual stories can make fundraising appeals more relatable and compelling, encouraging donors to contribute as they feel a more personal connection to the cause.

What Are the Benefits of Building Community Around a Nonprofit?

Building a community fosters a sense of belonging, generates word-of-mouth support, encourages collaboration, and creates a loyal base of supporters.

How Can Nonprofits Balance a Human Approach with Professionalism?

Balancing a human approach with professionalism involves maintaining high standards of conduct while being approachable, relatable, and genuinely caring in interactions with all stakeholders.

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