How do you make your organization better?
From Shellie Speer, Executive VP/Client Strategic Development, Brewer Direct
I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations for a number of years now, and while I get asked a lot of questions over and over, one question I wish more nonprofits asked me – and themselves – is about improving their performance management.
What do I mean by performance management? I don’t mean just development or fundraising. Of course, no organization can succeed without an effective fundraising strategy or the financial development that enables them to reach their goals. What I mean is, how do you actually make your organization better?
As we continue looking at the concept of “releasing generosity,” a topic like performance management may not be top of mind. But assessing your own performance – how your organization meets its goals, how your work impacts your community, how you share that impact, and how efficiently and effectively your internal processes work – is key to understanding if your organization inspires your community to release generosity in terms of their material, volunteer and financial support.
Does your community look to you for information and ideas about your cause? Do you have a good reputation in your community? Are you leading your donors – individuals, churches, businesses and foundations – through the “Cycle of Giving”? (To read more on the Cycle of Giving, please click here.)
As Harry Hertz, director of Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, explains, performance management focuses on helping organizations to think about these 3 simple, yet important questions:
- Is your organization any good?
- Is it getting better?
- How do you know?
Let’s break that down just a little bit more.
Is your organization any good?
This is a holistic look into every area of your organization to see if your vision of what you do matches up with reality. Your programs need to reflect why your organization exists. Does your community understand and value the services you provide? Are you providing unique programs in your community, thus setting yourself apart in your area? And are your programs meeting the need successfully? If you can confidently answer, “Yes!” to all 3 of these questions, then consider your organization good.
Is it getting better?
I know you’ll be shocked to hear that no organization is perfect – not even yours! So there’s always room for improvement, whether it’s with your team members, your clients, your donors, your programs and service offerings, or your outreach to and relationships with your community. It’s easy to focus on what you already do well. But performance management is assessing your whole organization’s health, and whether your strides are limited to specific areas.
While this assessment work is often handed to Development Teams to handle, it ideally should be an effort by your entire organization to realize its maximum potential by:
- continuously analyzing the organization’s mission, programs and services
- establishing strategic goals and objectives for the future
- taking necessary actions to achieve those goals and objectives
How do you know?
Keep an ongoing record of performance for your reference. Data is important, but it’s not always the whole picture. When you’ve performed a service, many organizations assess it as only “successful” or “unsuccessful,” based on quantifiable numbers. But it’s important to also look at qualitative elements to determine success too. For instance, your tutoring program for youth has a goal of 15 students per afternoon. But you’ve only got 10 students right now. Those 10 students, though, have all gone from failing to passing grades at school. So make sure that you measure positive changes in skills and behaviors as well as the numbers.
Once you start assessing your performance holistically, you’ll begin seeing opportunities for improvements in a variety of areas in your nonprofit. And you won’t stop seeing them either! This is a continuous cycle with no ending point – you’ll constantly be seeing new opportunities, developing a plan to utilize them, and then monitoring and improving them… eventually starting the process all over again.
The ultimate goal of performance management is to identify areas of improvement and opportunities for your organization to grow more efficiently and effectively. The more you do it, the more integrated it becomes into your development process and the more integral it becomes to all your stakeholders in making your organization better. I firmly believe that by involving everyone – your staff, donors, volunteers, Board and community partners – in this process, you’ll also be inspiring them to release their own generosity with confidence.
Share this now with your community of generosity releasers!