Recently, I read an article that spoke of a surge of nonprofits that are turning to the traditionally for-profit dashboard (a type of performance management data snapshot). What I took from my reading was not the way in which nonprofits could use this method to set and reach goals or in what ways they were being cautioned at how they interpret this company-at-a-glace viewpoint. What I read was that the organizations were using this to set day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year benchmarks – and not just for pre-campaign analysis. Here is your chance to make a shift in management strategy that can improve your long-term success.
One caveat – this is not to advocate for 24/7 monitoring as some businesses have been known to use dashboards. This is to recommend you determine how often you need an accurate overview of your organization in order to facilitate your strategic planning.
Why all nonprofits need measurement tools.
To use a simple analogy – I want to encourage you to change from a system of putting out fires into a method of fire prevention.
The majority of Mersky, Jaffe & Associates’ strategic planning work is initiated by organizations that are preparing to raise large amounts of funding in the next few years. A well-conceived, long-range planning process, of course, is a proven way of improving your odds of success in any fundraising endeavor. But, I also believe that the other 90% of organizations, from those who have just ended a campaign to those without a capital campaign on the horizon, should do self-examinations on a regular basis.
What method is right for you?
Is it worth investing in “dashboard” software or would you be better served by using a spreadsheet to perform a SWOT analysis prior to the next annual board retreat. Do you need outside counsel or does your board have members who have the capability to facilitate and lead a planning process? Are you too close to the organization to provide an accurate assessment or too busy to do the examination in a timely manner?
However you accomplish the goal plan ahead and as the famous athletic equipment company has said, “just do it.”
Establishing a regular routine of continual strategic planning as a check-up will offer you a better idea of who you are, who you are serving and how well you are doing at accomplishing both big and small goals. It will help you decide in which direction you should continue, and from which paths you should turn away. And most of all, whether you are accomplishing your mission and achieving your vision. Which, after all, is the goal, isn’t it?