How to take a structured approach to impact assessment in nonprofits of all sizes
Most organizations have blind spots. It is true of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.
In the nonprofit world this is understandable. Most organizations grow up around a social problem or issue area that they are uniquely motivated to and capable of addressing. The result is typically a lean and focused operation to support the program and mission first and foremost. The byproduct of such focus is often tunnel vision: nonprofits often lack the discipline or capacity to challenge their existing way of operating. It causes organizations to miss opportunities to create operational efficiencies, identify ancillary benefits for the communities and causes they serve, or simply hinder faster and more sustainable growth for the impact they are trying to achieve.
Most nonprofits are self-aware enough to know that programming can always be improved. That careful self-evaluation is critical to innovation and growth. The problem, in short, lies in not knowing where to start and what to look for.
To begin, organizations should take stock of where they are today in four key areas:
This diagnostic is a starting point that can challenge conventional thinking and help organizations realign to the mission they support. It requires honesty and clarity but is a critical first step towards innovation and evolution. Whether you can succinctly and consistently, across organizational stakeholders, answer these questions is the test will provide clues to where effort and resources need to be applied going forward.