Nonprofit Strategy and Evaluation

Ah, the glamour and glitz of starting your very own nonprofit! Coming up with a name! Designing a logo! Assembling your team! Creating your social media accounts!

Okay, so maybe it’s not really all that glitzy or glamorous, unless you’re bedazzling team jackets for your board… which you should definitely be doing.

However, after the initial excitement of building your team and uniting them to make a change, you might feel a little lost. What’s the next step?

In a word: strategic plan. Okay, that’s two words, but you get the idea. You’re going to need a well thought-out, fairly detailed strategy if you hope to move forward toward your goals. It’s the main pillar upon which your evaluation plan can be built.

The scope of this strategic plan should align with the ambition of your organization – make it as broad or specific in range as the community you hope to reach. You’ll want to outline the mission, vision, and overarching goals of your organization. Make sure you’re setting realistic goals; if you set the bar impossibly high, you don’t want to feel discouraged if you don’t get close. Don’t set your goals too low, either, or you’ll be selling yourself short.

When you create your plan, don’t get too wrapped up in numbers. Look into the attitudes and behaviors you wish to change with your nonprofit; while these metrics are not as easy to measure, at this stage, they often have as much resonance as facts and figures. Besides, we’ll get to the data crunching later.

If the thought of drawing up a strategy feels overwhelming, never fear! We at Mockingbird Analytics are here to help you! If you don’t have the time, expertise, or staff to create a strong strategic plan, bring in experts. Your strategic plan is vital to properly developing an effective evaluation plan, so if you have any doubts, ask for help!

Okay, now that you’ve drawn up the perfect strategic plan – or asked us to help you – it’s time to start the evaluation. Develop measurable metrics (this is where those facts and figures come back in) based on the goals in your strategic plan. Stick to the basics. How many clients will you serve? What attitudes and behaviors will you change? Don’t think too far into the future; you’ll want manageable expectations. For example, if your literacy program helps elementary school students learn to read, don’t promise statistics on how many will graduate high school. Think on a smaller scale with measurable, more immediate results - how will their reading skills improve by the end of the school year?

If you’re not sure where to begin, start with your demographics – WHO will you serve? Next, move into WHERE and WHEN you’ll serve them and WHAT you’ll do for them. Once you have a solid foundation, you can start looking into the HOW and WHY.

We know, it’s a lot of information, but at its core, it’s all about coming up with that strategic plan first – it’s the basis for your evaluation, which in turn leads to funding and grants. If you’re nervous about creating the perfect plan or just want expert insight, we’d love to help you. We don’t have bedazzled jackets (yet), but we do have the know-how to help you succeed on a higher level.

Jessica PayneComment