When board members start assessing the strength and stability of their organization, many have the impression that they have to bring in an expensive consultant or do complex strategic planning. However, assessing an organization can be rather simple by focusing on four main areas every organization must do well.
First, Model is understanding what your organizational purpose, structure and value are to the members. It is the most fundamental and challenging area to develop because it asks the big questions: What is your purpose and why does your organization exist? In a field where even nonprofits may share common causes, how is yours going to stand out and are you truly serving your mission?
Second, Money is critical to the sustainability of the organization. The first thing many donors will seek to understand is where and how money is spent in the organization. Make sure your finances are in order and, more importantly, that your donor projections or dues are conservative. On the other side, if you are dealing with an organization that has a ton of cash sitting around, make sure you have a policy on what you use that money for and communicate it to the board.
Management is making sure we have the right people in the organization doing the right things. It can be hard when someone believes in the cause and has been with the organization for many years but is in the wrong position. Do you or your board routinely make excuses for poor performance from staff? I have found that some organizations have almost gone under by not recognizing this and having one bad apple that seems to spoil the whole organization. Many ignore glaring problems because, after all, we are the nice guys doing good work and we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. The truth is, keeping individuals in the wrong positions limits your organization and your cause. In fact, many times you will end up losing your star employees.
Finally, Marketing is the cornerstone to any successful organization. Marketing is more than just your website and brochure; it is the brand promise to members and perception among the community. What is your relationship with your funders, donors or members? Do your few target audiences know of your existence, and if so how often are you communicating with them? Sometimes we get so entrenched in our work that we assume everyone knows what we do when the opposite is usually the reality.
"DO THE SMALL THINGS WELL."
Communication and brand promise are not only for the outside audience. They must start with your board and staff. Can the board members successfully give a great elevator speech about the organization they serve? This is one of the first things I ask when I join an organization. Many times board members have an idea but each board member relays a different message about the organization. “Do the small things well,” is a motto I subscribe to. That starts with consistent messaging and communication from the board.
A great starting place ...
Each of these four tenets is equally important and a great starting place to see where challenges exist and quickly sum up how the organization is doing internally. I find when an organization is either growing rapidly or there is significant board or staff turnover, one or more of these tenets are suffering. Asking a few questions concerning the model, money, management or marketing can quickly identify where you need to start.
As Director of Finance and Operations, Carl has more than 10 years of experience in the human resource, pharmaceutical and business sector. He derives better ways for businesses to handle finance, budgeting, marketing, and sales processes. Carl utilizes his talents for streamlining client operations and association management by utilizing member management systems (MMS) that integrate with websites and accounting.