We all know the nonprofit sector is really struggling. Particularly in the midst of a deep recession it can be difficult to figure out how to get out of a vicious cycle of increasing demand for services, relentless fundraising, diminishing capacity and so on.
But there is hope. In order to break free of the starvation cycle of trying to do more and more with less and less, nonprofits need to make big change. And in order to do that they need to figure out what is holding their organization back.
Most consultants offer nonprofits what they call an Organizational Assessment. But I hate the term, and I don’t hold much stock in the results. The solutions they offer to what’s holding a nonprofit back tend to be rooted in what the nonprofit sector has been doing wrong for too long. Most Organizational Assessments are not bold enough, they don’t push nonprofits to understand and articulate their own theory of change, look at entirely new revenue streams, get rid of non-performing board members, completely revamp their mission, focus their marketing efforts, create a real strategic plan, and so on.
What nonprofits need is an Organization Building Plan. It can transform a nonprofit, give them an understanding of where they stand currently and what it will take to really strengthen the organization and their ability to make social change. An Organization Building Plan gives a nonprofit a clear, executable road map for making their organization work better, smarter, more effectively, more sustainably. It demonstrates how to integrate better all aspects of the organization (program, funding, marketing, operations, board, etc), make the organization more sustainable, expand the net of supporters (funders, volunteers, board members, friends), deliver programs in a way that increases social impact, and increase the strengths of the organization, while addressing the weaknesses.
If a nonprofit can strengthen their organization, they can deliver more social impact. Indeed, I would love to see every nonprofit organization with a well executed Organization Building Plan. So what does a good one look like?
An outsider (it must be an outsider, because, as we all know, someone close to the organization won’t have the heart or the vision to see what is really wrong and how to fix it) interviews board, staff and funders, reviews organization processes, policies, procedures, documents. They then analyze and create detailed recommendations for improvement in the eight key areas of a nonprofit organization:
- Mission and Vision: How these basic pillars of the nonprofit galvanize internal and external people to create change.
- Strategy: How the organization comes up with and executes on a plan for the work of the organization.
- Program delivery and impact: How the organization delivers social change.
- Governance and leadership: How the board and key staff drives the organization forward.
- Finances and revenue generation: How financially strong and sustainable the organization is.
- External relationships: How strong and effective important collaborations and partnerships are in the work of the organization.
- Marketing and communications: How well the organization gets in front of the right audiences in a compelling way that drives action.
- Operations, systems and infrastructure: How well the organization makes use of resources.
Doing Organization Building Plans is one of my favorite services we offer at Social Velocity. When I deliver the results to a client’s board and staff it is thrilling to look around the room and see the mix of shock, awe, relief, excitement, energy, innovation. Finally someone has taken a hard look inside the organization and come up with a new direction that opens a whole new world to the organization. Ideas start flying around the room “We could do this…”, “What if we did that…” It serves as a rallying cry to begin to build the organization.
At Social Velocity we are all about big, not incremental, change. An Organizational Assessment can make a nonprofit incrementally better. An Organization Building Plan can transform how an organization works, dramatically increasing productivity, sustainability, and ultimately, social impact.