As we transition from 2015 into the new year, many of you are putting together the Annual Report for your constituents and working on evaluating last years’ overall results. It’s a great time to ask some pointed questions about how your nonprofit organization can improve.
Organizational problems can only be fixed if they’re confronted head-on. Postponing action or ignoring the issues just make them grow and continue to hinder your organization. To evaluate your status, ask yourself these three questions. Answer truthfully, and recognize where you may need to put more effort and resources.
1. Are we doing our job?
This doesn’t refer to your financial statements, but rather, whether or not your nonprofit is actually making a difference. How much of your fundraising is going to real programming? Let’s say your nonprofit helps homeless folks find housing. You may be raising a lot of money, but how many families are you serving? What are your specific goals, and are they met regularly? It’s important to be able to document answers to these questions to gain insight into, as well as demonstrate, your organization’s overall success.
Besides your current programs – such as providing housing – do you have other goals like, helping homeless children stay in school, or providing your clients job training? Should you provide mental health services or family counseling? And what are you doing to achieve these goals? Are you effectively using your volunteers? Can you partner with other organizations to reach these goals?
Keeping track of who you help now, and how you can improve in the future, is vital to your organization’s game plan. Is your strategy really working? Be truthful. If not, you may have to change your strategy or, perhaps, your goals. All organizations have limitations; recognize them and make adjustments.
2. Are we able to adapt with the changing times?
Remember when you first heard of Facebook? Or, (as in my case) when you switched from DOS to Windows? Are you considering cloud technology? Technology is moving fast, and your organization needs to be able to adapt quickly to take advantage of it.
Do you have a social media director? Which social media outlets are you using and are they working? Can you afford to hire a blogger and/or content writer, or maybe enlist a volunteer? Are you tracking your results? You can watch your metrics to see which blog posts attract your target audience, and refine as needed. Perhaps you can look for new audiences in this manner, too.
The social media/technology boom cannot be ignored. If you want to engage the public, generate new donors, and get your story read by others, you must use these avenues of information sharing.
Make sure someone is responsible for ensuring your website and donations pages are working 24/7, and are simple to use.
Do you have a workflow where your assigned staff can build on each other’s posts and blog topics? Sticking to our previous example, if your donors sponsor families, use photos and stories to show others how they can make a difference. Demonstrating the connection between your services and your donors’ desired outcomes helps you further engage those donors. Ask your donors to join your social media groups and share, share, share!!
Besides your donation and development strategies, your internal business controls also may need to move into the 21st century. If you’re still creating a lot of manual spreadsheets, you may be wasting time and money on errors and duplicate efforts. If you have multiple locations, whether they’re in separate buildings, spread across town, or even international, cloud technology may be the answer. You may be able to streamline your business processes and save money by moving your systems to the cloud.
A great example is the Abila MIP Advance true fund accounting system and Abila Elevate donor management system. Using modern software like this enables your staff to work from anywhere, enter or find data on their smartphones, and just be more efficient!
3. Are we using our resources to get the best results?
Think about what your resources are; money, grants, staff, etc. Are you getting optimal results for your efforts? As part of your regular monthly financial and programmatic review, make sure the program results are brought into this discussion. Are you operating a program that just isn’t doing as well as was planned? Is there a way to change that program and make it more efficient? Perhaps you should be spending the money on other programs? Does your staff need more training or maybe need to be reassigned? These are tough questions but they should not be ignored.
Nonprofit organizations are growing, and so are the needs of our communities. A great report to review is the 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Report. It’s not a huge study, but it makes some great points:
– Online revenue is up, but gifts are smaller.
– It takes 29 actions to raise $40 or for every 1,000 website visitors you may raise $612.
– Audiences on social media are growing faster than email.
Don’t stay in a “safe zone.” Moving forward means asking the hard questions and staying on top of progress toward meeting your mission.
John Francis is a Business Development Parter for 1st Choice Advisors, Abila Business Partner of the Month for February 2016. Each month, Abila recognizes the top Business Partner based on its continued support in helping nonprofit organizations. Abila Business Partners are trusted experts authorized to resell and implement one or more Abila products.