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Best Practices Can Be Helpful

Sometimes best practices are helpful. Other times they are a hindrance. When you need best practice where should you look?

It is important to remember that best practices are only valuable for non-strategic activities. When looking for help in a non-strategic area, where you look depends on what area of your nonprofit needs help. Here are some examples:

Human Relations – Every organization of more than one person must deal with HR. It makes sense to emulate the employer in your area with the best HR reputation (for-profit, nonprofit, or government agency).

Fundraising – Since almost every nonprofit in your area is engaged in fundraising, it makes sense to emulate the practices of the nonprofit in your area with the best specific process you need. Who has the best grant writing success? Who has the best donor cultivation process? Who has the most successful events? Who has the most sustainable funding stream? Of course, what you say and how you say it should be unique to your mission.

Programming – Who are the similar organizations in your community and who among those has the most successful programming? It is not program content that matters (best practices is not duplicating someone’s program), what matters is how do they design, test, manage, and measure their programming. If you have a youth program, you might think about the schools, churches, youth organizations, or anyone else who has one or more programs for youth regardless of the age group they serve.

The information you are looking for will help you perfect your process rather than build a competitive process. Most organizations are happy to share what they know as long as they can trust that you have no intention of using the information to compete with them. As an example, Little League is unlikely to willingly help you create a competitive baseball league but they would probably be happy to help you create a better run sports program.

A better run sports program increases the efficiency of the organization and the enjoyment of the participants (athletes, fans, officials, and organizers). However, a better run sports program is unlikely to have much effect on the outcomes (sportsmanship, fitness, etc.).

Naturally, after you find the best practice that you need, you must customize it to fit you culture, mission, and clients.

Next Step:

Determine if the problem you want to solve is with execution

Determine who in your area has the best practices you need to address your problem

Determine how the best practice functions

Determine what it will cost to incorporate the best practices into you process

Determine if redirecting those funds will have more benefits for your clients and mission than increasing efficiency

Best practices only make services more efficient. How well you fulfill the promises of your mission determines the effectiveness of your services. In most cases, it is better to tolerate some inefficiency if there is an opportunity to increase effectiveness. Increased efficiency prevents sustainability from declining while increase effectiveness increases sustainability.

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