!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Getting Results at Nonprofit Organizations

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting Results at Nonprofit Organizations

As a follow-on to recent posts dealing with nonprofit organizations, I'd mention the recommendations Jeffrey Bradach, Thomas Tierney, and Nan Stone have published in the December 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Bradach, Tierney, and Stone (BTS) are all associated with the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit consultancy that provides strategy advice to other nonprofit organizations.

In "Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits," BTS discuss four interrelated questions that they would have any nonprofit organization work through in iterative fashion in order to determine exactly how the organization will carry out its mission:
  1. Which results will we hold ourselves accountable for?

    What is the intended impact of our work? Who are the beneficiaries we are targeting, and what benefits will we provide? When the organization has to make tradeoffs in deciding where to allocate resources, referring to the intended impact you have defined will provide steadying guidance.

  2. How will we achieve the results we're aiming for?

    Your stakeholders need to understand the rationale for your organization's strategic decisions, so you need an explicit theory of change that spells out your beliefs and assumptions concerning how the programs and services you offer will achieve your organization's intended impact.

  3. What will results really cost, and how can we fund them?

    You need to carefully assess total costs of current programs, including an appropriate share of organization overhead allocated to each program. Then appropriate sources of finding must be identified. Each program's effect on the organization's overall financial health must be understood, so that funding and strategies can be better aligned.

  4. How do we build the organization we need to deliver results?

    The organization needs to give focused attention to creating better processes, building leadership capacity, and ensuring that needed people and infrastructure are in place (as opposed to succumbing to funder pressure to minimize overhead).
Leadership capacity gets a culminating mention in the BTS article because nonprofits to a large degree are outside the discipline of markets to which for-profit organizations are subject. Therefore, the discipline in a non-profit's direction-setting and operations must come from its executive director, who "shoulders the heavy burden of engaging key stakeholders in a rigorous consensus-building process in which all parties contront the fundamental questions [listed above] — and fully embrace the subsequent answers."


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