We often start the new year with enthusiasm and high expectations, and yet by year-end so many of our great plans are unfulfilled. Will 2015 be another year of doing the same thing and expecting different results, or will this truly be a new year?
Here’s a suggestion for nonprofits who want to focus on different results: create a short-term assessment task force to review your planning processes and the people and resources available to implement your plans.
Your task force should be a small, focused working group comprised of people who are committed to
your organization but not currently involved in its operations. Task force members could include a major donor, past program participant, a new board member, or a local business person or faculty member. What you don’t want is a task force comprised of the executive director, development director, and board chair. You want fresh eyes on the organization. Those who are at “arms length” can ask questions and make suggestions without the knowledge or “baggage” that comes from knowing “we tried that three years ago” or “the board would never approve that” or “we can’t afford that.”
Members will look at your organization with the goal of helping you achieve your goals.
Four steps for task force members.
Step one. Review the organization’s strategic plan; fundraising plan; and marketing, communications and social media plan. Look at program descriptions, goals, objectives, outcomes and impact; and financial reports and fundraising reports. If the nonprofit is an educational institution, review recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation reports. Look at demographics of communities served and their identified and emerging needs.
Step two. Create a list of questions that arise during the review. Add to the list as you contemplate the documents holistically. What’s missing? Where are the redundancies? Individual questions should be shared with fellow task force members. What are the common themes that arise?
Step three. Meet individually with the executive director or president, fundraising leadership, program directors, accountants or bookkeepers, board members, clients or students and others who you believe can provide insights and answer questions.
Step four. Create a list of things for the nonprofit to consider. These suggestions can include short and long term suggestions: all should focus on how to help the organization best deliver on its mission and vision. No more than one page.
Two things for nonprofits to remember. First, this is a small, short-term task force so keep the group to no more than seven people, and don’t let the process drag on: the work should be completed in a month if possible. Second, while you don’t have to adopt all or any of the suggestions you will have a new look at what you are doing and how you could be more successful.
Happy New Year!
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.