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Feedback Loop

Is your nonprofit receiving the feedback it needs to maximize the value of your mission?

Every nonprofit knows to track the information foundations need to fulfill grant obligations. Does that feedback alone demonstrate to the individual donors, board members, clients, and the community that your mission is being fulfilled?

Usually, grant parameters are set by the grantor to fulfill their mission or assist in some way with the achievement of a larger community goal. Often, there is a limited, if any, connection between the grantor’s needs and the mission of the nonprofit.

The grant award demonstrates collaboration but not necessarily synergy. It is the nonprofit’s responsibility to manage the collaboration without letting the lack of synergy influence the nonprofit’s mission. It is easy to be distracted by the desire to renew the grant and let the grant goals eclipse the mission goals. When this occurs, money becomes the focus and sustainability is reduced.

Carefully designing your process for gathering data can eliminate the tension. Mission related feedback must be the first priority. Grant related feedback must be secondary.

What questions should you ask alumni to determine if the alumni are thriving because of your mission centered programming?

What information should you collect from alumni to prove your mission justifies support (donors, foundations, volunteers, referral sources, and advocates)?

What information should you provide your clients so they can give you informed feedback about their satisfaction with your programming and their unmet or under met needs?

What information should you collect from your staff to determine how to make your mission more effective?

What staff goals will help you determine how to achieve mission-defined success?

How do you present your mission to the community so that your nonprofit has a growing client base and growing community impact (something every foundation wants)?

How should you assemble and report the preceding data so that each foundation recognizes that their grant has achieved the purpose the foundation intended?

Everyone wins. Your success becomes the foundation’s success. Your nonprofit remains an independent collaborator in control of its destiny.

Next Step:

Align your internal systems to provide feedback to you about the success of your mission in addition to the grantor’s reporting requirements

Provide data to your clients so they can provide you with informed feedback about their satisfaction with your mission delivery

Report the consistent, reproducible, and scalable success of your mission to the broader community, especially your donors (foundations and individuals)

By reporting results that are consistent (a large percentage of our clients achieve success), reproducible (diversity of our clients is frequently changing), and scalable (every year our client base grows by X%), you provide prospective clients with confidence that they will achieve meaningful success. In addition, it is success that is difficult to achieve anywhere else. In other words, it is success the community will happily support with referrals, advocacy, volunteers, and donations.

Sustainability comes from designing a feedback system that supports the mission. The feedback will also help to increase donor generosity by providing confirmation that gifts are transforming lives.

As you look forward to success in 2013, what feedback do you need to demonstrate greater success and encourage broader community support?

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