Sunday, February 19, 2012

How Does A Nonprofit Implement A Sound Growth Strategy for Itself?

All nonprofits look forward optimistically about their potential, what needs they will meet in the future, and how the organization will continue its efforts and improve (or perhaps increase) them.

The issue of currently being sustainable and more importantly, efficient but effective is fraught with questions, when a nonprofit leader looks into the future because we wonder of the future: will we be able to manage the level of support that we provide, right now, or will we need to locate increased new funding; are we operating at capacity and if so, where are the areas this organization needs to grow so it may remain vital; are we staffed (or staffed by volunteers) who are the best and brightest providing the fullest potential to our organization's mission's goal; and we also wonder, of course, what hiccups are coming down the road, that we can't know about yet?

__  As is almost always the case, any organization that is contemplating anything operational (i.e. organizational goals, programs and services. fundraising, volunteer management, budgeting, retention of talent, etc.) it is best that it begins by honestly, in quantifiable data, in sum total evaluating itself (the organization's relevant (casting a fair and wide net as to which) operations, the current leadership and its track record (organizational successes per the goals of the mission under their direction, how effective it is, how much turnover (or volunteer and staff retention) there has been, the public perception of the organization, fundraising track record, its ability to work with the executive director, staff, volunteers, and community partners, what needs improvement, etc.).  Then the organization must be reviewed, in the same regard, using quantifiable (verifiable) data points, and objectively investigating the organization's recent track record (like how the leadership should be reviewed), its potential, what needs the organization's beneficiaries have (related to the organization's mission) that are still as yet unmet and how those can be met (if they are pertinent), etc.  This information should be an honest, effective, positive review of the leaders and the organization's operations.  This project is called an organizational self evaluation and can obviously be regularly conducted, too, for programs and departments within the organization.

__ Next, based on the findings of the organization's self evaluation, the organization's leadership (and if appropriate any key volunteers or staff that should be involved) should begin strategic planning.  Many excellent reputable, proven, best practices resources exist that outline how an effective, efficient, ethical professional, nonprofit strategic planning process works and how to conduct one (check our recommended books, above, in our Amazon store (on this blog page, in the upper right corner of this blog) for excellent book recommendations.  Do not feel obligated to buy anything you find that you like - check your local library for it and if they do not have it, ask them to get it for you through inter-library loan).  Similarly, many reputable, effective, and proven professional consultants walk nonprofit clients through strategic planning programs quite often.  Ask colleagues working for other nonprofits who they have worked with that they both liked and found their outcomes to be what the organization hoped they would be.

__ One outcome of the strategic planning effort will be the three (or five or whatever) year plan that usually includes the specifics as to when, buy whom, and how the findings from the strategic planning will be implemented or rolled out.

Sound growth strategy involves the above steps, but it includes more.

Sound growth strategy is the result of sound organizational evaluation and planning, but too, sound decision making that truly is made in the organization's and its beneficiaries' best interests.  Leaders who can leave their egos, personal agendas, and even inter-personal politics at the door in order to make some sound decisions based solely on the current but as yet unmet needs of the beneficiaries (as they relate to the organization's mission and goals) and, too, based on the organization's mission are truly doing the best possible 'leader-ing' (sorry) that they could be.

__ We all know, especially in this economy, enough can not be said, here, about planning for economic downturns (with some kind of nest egg (perhaps an endowment or other assets)); creating and implementing a realistic and effective fundraising plan (which can be one year out, a 2 year plan, or so on, up to and probably preferably no more than a five year plan); and truly budgeting well for the organization and all of its individual programs/services/and their projects, annually.  Obviously, growth must be projected and quantified so that growth and too, some kind of economic buffer, can be put into place that would realistically fund the organization (at its future operational level and its expenses).

__ Sound growth is usually bolstered with some public outreach, marketing, and public relations.  Those efforts must be planned, organized, efficient, and tailored to individually and together achieve the goals necessary to introduce, explain, put into context (regarding the organization's beneficiaries), and welcome (or even invite) the public to the new growth.  Too, it should be clear how and where the public can get more information, volunteer, or donate.

__ Growth, though always occurring should be planned, monitored, and then evaluated.  Time is the greatest ally to all anticipated and projected change.  Growth is change, and so, the who, what, where, when, how, what for, and the goals of each of the specific steps of the growth and too, the goal of the sum total or end result, of the growth should be clearly planned out.  After the growth plan is implemented and has been underway for some realistic amount of time for it to have been successful - evaluate the outcomes.  Wherever goals were not reached, determine why and how.  These findings (which are not downfalls, but rather, opportunities for the organization to learn, grow, and improve) can then be assessed, leadership and key staff can begin to come up with viable solutions, and those can be implemented (and evaluated, eventually, too, for their outcomes).

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