How to maximize your nonprofit’s performance

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 11:15AM

Hardy Smith, Nonprofit Consultant & Speaker

It’s that time of year again: time to consider how to improve performance in the year ahead.  Here are eight specific actions that represent significant opportunity for enhancing your organization’s ability to achieve greater success.

Recognize that organizations must adapt according to current changes and trends that are affecting your ability to achieve your mission.  Apply this observation from Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Focus on ensuring a top quality experience for every interaction someone may have with your organization.  From how your telephone is answered to your signature event and every activity in between, what kind of experience do you create?  What would a mystery shopper have to say about signing up for your services, getting information from your website, or attending one of your activities?  Every contact should give positive reinforcement, from initial exposure to the decision to continue involvement.

You are competing for volunteers and dollars. The top quality experience you provide will elevate your organization above the others.

Identify actions needed to strengthen your board.  If your board is relied upon to deliver critical results, commit to making it as strong as possible. Ask your board for improvement priorities and incorporate those suggestions into your annual action plan.

Improve your board members’ knowledge (and acceptance) of their roles and responsibilities.  According to the latest survey from BoardSource, board member knowledge of roles and responsibilities is graded, on average, a C+.  How would you grade your board members?

If they aren’t at honor roll level, what steps are needed to get them there? 

Eliminate “worst practices.”  There are plenty of recommendations on best practices to adopt. How about worst practices that should be abandoned?  Reevaluate programs and procedures. The proverbial “that’s the way we’ve always done it” response could indicate a worst practice to stop or alter.

Take the next step with social media.  Most organizations are now implementing use of social media.  However, many don’t understand how to maximize this important communication tool.  To realize its full benefit, create a dialogue with your “friends and contacts.”  Social media is most effective when the information flow is a two-way interaction.

Develop a year-in-advance communications schedule for your outreach efforts.  Advance planning reduces the stress of deadline pressures and creativity challenges.  Making time to create a calendar of dates when articles, promotional messages, appeal letters, and other writing activity are due provides a beneficial structure.  Planning out topics upfront and keeping a file of ideas as they come along will generate more creativity and will make your communications efforts much more effective.

Take action to deal with your elephant in the room.  Postponing addressing it will only make things worse.  Before the start of every NASCAR race, drivers are reminded that problems with their cars “don’t fix themselves.  Come in for repairs before you wreck.” Tackle that elephant before it steps into your path and causes a spectacular crash.

Taking action on these eight tips will contribute to your greater success in the year ahead.


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