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Every Level of Decision Making Needs Client Input

Nonprofits exist to serve the community. They provide their service by changing the lives of their clients. Their alumni strengthen the community.

The community determines what services it needs and will support. The nonprofit’s board must decide what the mission is and what it will promise the community. The programming and the philosophy behind the programming is the nonprofit’s professional staff and board’s decision.

When the nonprofit engages the community and invites the community to comment on its programming and planned programming, the nonprofit gains a large, powerful, and wealthy ally. The referrals, advocates, volunteers, and donors who engage with or on behalf of the nonprofit without prior affiliation indicate how well the nonprofit is collaborating with the community.

The collaboration with the community must occur at all levels within the nonprofit. The obvious point of collaboration is between the community and the board. There also needs to be staff (especially service delivery worker) collaboration with the community and especially clients and their families.

The unused capacity of many nonprofits is an example of a lack of collaboration. The product (changed life) is great but its delivery and presentation to the market missed the mark. As a result, clients are lost, reputations damaged, and success is delayed or minimized.

As mentioned earlier, it is important that the nonprofit ensure its mission, identity, and purpose remain strong. Remember that when the community questions the value or requests a dilution of the mission, it is an indication that the value and purpose of the mission is misunderstood (strengthening the community by strengthening the individual). Creating a better understanding that strengthening the individuals strengthens the community will solidify the relationship while maintaining the integrity of the mission and increasing the value to the community.

Next Step:

Meet with community representatives to determine the needs of the community (who needs services and what services they need)

Select the services that fit your mission

Create a plan to enhance the delivery of the needed services

Discuss the service delivery plans with the community to ensure those in need will appreciate the process, format, and depth of services

The community representatives you need to talk to are rarely the elected community leaders. They are usually other nonprofit leaders, foundation executives, and other ethnic or other demographic group leaders. They are the ones who understand various segments of the market and can help you identify unmet and under-met needs.

The referrals sources, advocates, volunteers, and donors who engage with or on behalf of the nonprofit without prior affiliation are also an indication of the growing sustainability of your nonprofit and its growing engagement with the community. In addition, they are the leading indicators of increasing client demand.

The closer you work with your community and the more you do for your community the stronger your mission will become.

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