In order to continue providing essential services for high-need populations now in and in the future, you must manage your nonprofit in a way that ensures its long-term sustainability. But how do you do that? Many social-good leaders start by looking at fundraising and program costs, which are both critical pieces of managing a sustainable nonprofit. As important as those two factors are, there are other equally important, and often overlooked, factors in the long-term success of your nonprofit. These include organizational health, social impact, and the ability to adjust to constant change.
Does Your Organization Serve Your Mission?
Your programs are designed to change lives and change circumstances for the individuals and communities you serve. It is critical to continuously evaluate these programs to ensure that they are effective in fulfilling their designed purposes. But how often do you ask the same questions about your organizational structure? No matter how well your programs are designed, they cannot function at their potential without a solid organization behind them. As part of understanding the health of your organization, ask yourself the following questions:
Are your organization’s priorities centered on your mission and vision?
Does your organization use its resources, both human and financial, in the most effective way?
Are your workflows efficient, or do you deal with redundancies and duplicated work?
And, perhaps, the most important question: How do you even know? Many nonprofits function on shoe-string budgets and their priorities are set by the most immediate crisis. While others are large organizations that have grown over time, but perhaps not in the most efficient or effective way. Information silos and communication barriers lead to departments duplicating efforts and executive level officers spending their valuable time sorting out the mess.
What both of these scenarios need is transparency. In order to continuously assess the health of both your programs and your organizational structure, you need real-time data reporting. Tracking and communicating performance indicators, financial details, and impact data allow your organization to find and improve weaknesses, communicate with both internal and external stakeholders, and facilitate accountability within your organization.
The Relationship Between Funding and Impact
As anyone working in the social-good sector knows, financial resources are key to providing essential services, yet it feels like there is never enough money to go around. You may feel like the path from revenue to impact is a straightforward cause and effect relationship. You receive more funding, which then allows you to create impact. But the truth is that revenue and impact are part of a dynamic cycle.
Financial resources allow you to provide services that, ideally, create social impact. When you are able to prove that impact using real-time quantitative and qualitative data, you can then use that information to solicit more funds from outcome-oriented funders and donors. Those funds then allow you to create more impact, and the cycle continues.
As part of this cycle, you should always keep your funders’ goals in mind. Outcome-oriented funders are investors who seek social change rather than financial returns. Just as you have a mission as an organization, they have specific priorities they are trying to accomplish with their financial resources. Donors are often less formal in their requirements than government grants or private foundations, but they still have their own reasons for why they give.
When applying for grants or soliciting donations, the goal is never to sell your mission. The key to successful fundraising is to show funders and donors that your organization can help them fulfill their own purposes in supporting social-good efforts. As you use real-time data to prove your impact on their priorities, funders will continue investing in your organization and the cycle can continue.
Plan for Change
You have asked yourself the question above and found that your organization is functioning at peak efficiency and your revenue cycle is healthy and strong, but what about tomorrow? The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is often credited with saying that “the only constant in life is change.” Sometimes you face drastic and unexpected changes, such as those brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Other times, changes come in a slow and steady flow that is hard to detect until you pause and look back.
With constant change comes the constant need to evaluate and re-evaluate the effectiveness of your organization and your services. Your organization and programs were created to fulfill specific needs in a particular time and place. But circumstances change. And with them, so do the needs. Your programs may be very successful today, but will that remain true as government, social, and economic circumstances shift?
Effective reflection and intentional change both require having insight into your programs and organization. Selecting and then tracking critical indicators empowers you to make data informed decisions that improve your organization and increase your impact. Real-time reporting provides your leaders and team members with the information they need in their everyday jobs, as well as the insight required for long-term planning and improvement. These same reports can also be an effective tool for communicating your needs and impact to grantees, funders, and other stakeholders. Most importantly, real-time access to insights is a driving force behind a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
SureImpact is a purpose-built impact management platform that is designed for social-good providers by social-good providers. SureImpact provides the data collection, impact reporting, and analytics infrastructure to meet the unique needs of social-good organizations as they work to build a culture of continuous improvement and maximize their social impact. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools are designed to help nonprofits manage, measure, and communicate their social impact while also increasing data capacity for their team members and supporting a high-performing culture.
Join us for our 4-part on-demand webinar series “Leveling Up Your Team Impact” to learn how to create internal champions for measuring and communicating your organization’s social impact. Each session is dedicated to a specific team – all with their unique needs and priorities in mind. You’ll learn how to communicate how each department (and individual) will benefit and grow by making impact measurement a priority.