Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What Is A Well Run Non Profit Agency? I'll Tell You...

Clientele, community members, donors, non profit volunteers and staff, and agency leadership, you may ask:

"What is a well run non profit?"

A well run non profit will garner community and donor support; but more importantly it will meet a need in the community successfully in an efficient and honest manner. A well run non profit agency is one in which:

10. 75% - 80% (or more) of a non profit's revenues are dedicated to core programs.

9. The board of directors, (or volunteer leadership), are educated (about their role as leadership, know the agency's ratified policies, their legal responsibilities (i.e. Sarbanes Oxley) and know what is expected of them and everyone else in the non profit agency), and actively overseeing: that the agency's ratified policies are being followed, that all laws (federal, state, and city) are being followed, that all agency accounting is accurate, honest, and legal (including making sure that annual independent audits occur), communicating with the staff and anyone in the public wanting information (this is agency transparency), fundraising (they must be actively raising funds and talking with their colleagues and friends in the community about why the agency is an asset and its work is necessary), evenhandedly oversees and works with the leadership staff (listening to them, working with them, but overseeing them and their effectiveness per the agency's mission), and volunteering for the agency's needs (i.e. folding letters and stuffing them, working at fundraising events, helping in the office on the phones, or whatever may be needed).

8. The staff is excellent at their respective jobs, honest, well trained; supported by leadership staff and volunteers; is given fair wages, benefits, vacation time, continuing education support, an opportunity to move upward in the agency; and is given a human resources policy that is an agreement between them and their employer (as to benefits, grievance policies, etc.).

7. Volunteers are appreciated and considered valuable assets who are not to be taken for granted. They are well trained, asked what work that they want to do based on their skills, and the lines of communication are open with them (after all, they are often major donors, invested in the agency's mission, and telling their friends and families their reasons for supporting your organization. They are boosters).

6. The mission statement is THE prime directive and it is meeting its community's needs successfully (per the agency fundraising plan, ratified agency policies, and all public laws). All fundraising, recruiting, hiring, public relations, contracts, programs, research, policies, etc are related to and based in the agency's mission statement. Otherwise, you're out of your scope and frankly, can't afford the work beyond your mission. There must be agency-wide buy-in into the mission statement. No one at the agency is working for or volunteering for any person at the non profit - everyone is working for the mission statement and its (clear) goal. IF the mission statement or its goal is not clear - hire an excellent non profit operations consultant and clarify that mission statement. It is everything.

5. Everyone that works for the non profit (staff and volunteers) are honest with, and open to: donors and potential donors, the bank, lenders, the general public, the press, other potential volunteers, agency leadership, and report issues as appropriate. Communication is open (top-down, laterally, intra- and inter- agency, using prudence as appropriate) and agency financials, annual reports, service stats or research, and all other results are available as requested (or as the law requires).

4. Job-related fatigue is taken very seriously. If burn-out or fatigue is noted in any of the volunteers or staff there is a policy in place to address with that team member the burn out, and assist in relieving the valued member of the agency of their fatigue. No one's job should be in jeopardy over burn-out issues, alone. Many people work in the non profit sector for altruistic reasons but may be challenged by repeatedly seeing pain, death, danger, or sadness. It is an understandable outcome of too much repetitive exposure to tough stuff. A proactive agency policy will benefit everyone. Burn out or fatigue puts the agency's integrity, the staff or volunteer's job success, and the clientele or population being served in danger. Fatigue and burn out are not addressed enough in the non profit sector but it should be. It is deadly important.  [For more information see: Compassion Fatigue Strikes Family, Even Animal Caregivers]

3. Being willing to listen and hear others (clients or the served populations' advocates, volunteers, staff, the community at large, colleagues at other agencies, donors, government representatives, financial institutions, legal advisers, etc.) is critical. It is not enough to 'listen'. A non profit must take a comment, request, or question into consideration and give it attention. Respond and with respect, appreciation, and professionalism. Do not ever not respond.

2. An agency-culture of professionalism, knowing the latest in your field, openness, forthrightness, efficiency, honesty, friendliness, legal complicity, transparency, responsibility, communicativeness, integrity, humanity, fun, and other assets.

1. Putting the clientele or the cause first in all considerations for their/its benefit and welfare.

Please add what you believe I've missed or share your disagreements with me and my readers. Post a comment, below.

1 comment:

Jason Ansley said...

While it is important to focus on the mission statement it is even more important to produce tangible results on that mission. You mention efficiency at the beginning. This is the single most important item (which is achieved through several of your points) because as NPOs we have a tendency to not calculate the time/value (cost) of a deliverable. NPOs need to become better stewards and more efficient in order to become sustainable.