Saturday, May 23, 2009

How Well Are You Doing?

The Third Sector, a British website focused on nonprofits, noted that nonprofit organizations had no interest in tracking performance. Funders in the UK could not even get input from organizations who had received money to track performance. One interviewee noted, ""When it comes to measuring impact, charities suffer from a culture of avoidance and a lack of ability, and one reinforces the other." Across the Atlantic, we face the same dilemma.

Very often, we see nonprofit organizations started by a singular individual who possesses amazing powers of motivation. These people usually create something of a cult of personality where they are the mission and the mission is them. Such leaders tend to carefully monitor every aspect of the organization's performance and there is an entrepreneurial spirit in all the nonprofit does.

As a nonprofit matures, however, leadership changes and normalized job structure develops. Departments are created, tasks are methodically delegated, and the entrepreneurial nonprofit begins to conduct business as usual. At this point, the effect of the nonprofit's business as usual approach is no longer measured by a continuous feedback loop between the founding leader and the target population. When those you serve request service, there is now a formalized process through which they must navigate. It is the process that becomes the focus, not the outcome.

With such an emphasis on processes, it is no wonder nonprofits do not want to measure performance. It is difficult and would require a complete paradigm shift to focusing on achieving the outcome for each client as a measure of success as opposed to claiming success when a client simply comes to us for help. While such paradigm shifts appear daunting and take time, there is a way to begin the process painlessly by encouraging your staff to consider our organization their client. A mentor of mine encouraged me to do this and although it takes time to develop the mindset, ultimately the focus is entirely on the outcomes of the organization. By encouraging each employee to consider themselves someone who has been retained for a specific area of expertise, employees can focus on delivering the highest quality of service with results being the only measure of success.

Whether you being measuring your success or not, others already are. Other nonprofits know how well you are doing and current and potential funders know how well you are doing. Do YOU know how well you are doing?