Where Is Your Focus?

Every nonprofit executive has the same hopes as their clients and donors. Each year they the services to be more effective by the end of the service cycle (enrollment through program completion). In addition, the executive and donors want more clients.

How often does effectiveness increase at your nonprofit?

How often do you report the increase to your clients, donors, and community?

When effectiveness increases, it indicates that the relevance of your mission is increasing. When your donors know about your increased effectiveness, they will become more generous. When your community knows about the increase, they will better understand the value of your mission to your community and be more willing to increase their support (donors, volunteers, referrals, and advocacy). When the clients become aware of the increase they will realize that your nonprofit has exceeded their initial expectations. That will increase demand for your services.

When everyone sees that things are getting better, it is obvious that investing more in your nonprofit is a wise decision.

While increased effectiveness and increased enrollment are the hopes of every executive, many have their focus on something else. They find themselves too busy to give effectiveness and growth the attention they deserve or their staff is too busy to focus on effectiveness and growth. The board has the power to remedy the situation. It can either shift priorities and make increased effectiveness more important or change the fundraising strategy to ensure there are resources to increase effectiveness.

All of the arguments for neglecting effectiveness and growth seem valid until someone asks if money or mission is more important. If the mission is truly the first priority then there must be a commitment to having the money necessary. The donors give because they care about the mission and the clients. The donors have the money the mission needs. Therefore, explain to the donors why an increase in support is necessary. More support will mean more effective solutions for each client and more clients served (growing the impact of your mission on your community), which is what donors want. Donors want to fund the growing sustainability of your nonprofit.

The reverse is also true. When money is the priority or the lack of money is the reason for inaction, it sends a message to the donors that they exist to support the needs of the nonprofit instead of the needs of the clients. Since the donors prefer to give for the benefit of the clients, they will be less generous, less loyal, and less engaged. The lack of enthusiastic support undermines the sustainability of your nonprofit.

Next Step:

Focus on mission effectiveness and impact in every budget meeting and for every request for budget variances

Use mission effectiveness and impact to cultivate donor support

Make mission effectiveness the center point of every conversation and decision

When increasing mission effectiveness and growth are the focal point of every conversation and decision, it actually reduces unnecessary costs. You can think of times when people have asked for support that only benefits them or their department. Those requests evaporate when mission effectiveness and impact are the focus. It is also better stewardship of the donors’ funds since the donors only intend their funds to increase mission effectiveness and impact.

When your executive and board chair create the agenda for the board meetings, ensure they limit the items on the agenda to those that increase mission effectiveness and impact. There are many other items your board could talk about. However, all of those other items can be handled by the staff or a board committee. The board has limited time; since increasing mission effectiveness and impact are the primary priorities, it makes sense to narrow the board’s focus.

Take It Further:

Hold each of the board committees accountable for increasing mission effectiveness and impact

Make the increase in mission effectiveness and impact the top success measure for each board committee, board member, and senior staff member


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