All About Feasibility Studies
A campaign feasibility study is a critical part of campaign planning, helping a nonprofit to set goals with a strong degree of confidence that they are appropriate and achievable, and knowing that the case for support has resonance with prospective donors. A feasibility study tests the case that you plan to make to donors; it can help to shape the project that is the subject of the campaign; and it can identify voluntary leadership to drive the campaign. In this primer on feasibility studies, we answer nine questions including how the process can be used for more than just campaign planning.
Growing Your Board
Too often, Nominating Committee conversations start with: “Who do we know?” rather than: “Who do we need?” The focus should be on the experience, skills and connectivity needed for a high performing board. Effective recruitment mirrors the way paid positions are best filled in nonprofits – by defining the organization’s needs and identifying candidates to help meet them. Use a simple board matrix (spreadsheet) as your planning tool. Begin with a column-long list of the expertise you need to populate your board (e.g. legal, accounting, marketing, media relations, architecture, engineering, event planning, fundraising, government relations…the list can be long!). Then fill in the names of current board members who meet the criteria. The cells left blank – no current name to match the need! – are the gaps you’ll need to fill. For more information, please see: Growing Your Board.
Scaling Up: Grow by Intention and Plan
Today’s economic outlook makes “scaling” – the process of growing a nonprofit’s revenues and services intentionally to meet goals consistent with mission and vision – a hot topic for boards and executives looking for greater financial sustainability. Small size can make a nonprofit less attractive to funders looking for impact when they “invest;” and stagnation can be deadly. Growth, wisely planned, can be energizing and financially beneficial. This Plan A resource guide, which accompanied a webinar hosted by US Trust/Merrill Lynch, provides questions and tips to consider when preparing a scaling plan: Scaling Up: Grow by Intention and Plan
At a UJA-Federation event moderated by Adam Gaynor of Plan A Advisors®, the executive directors of three New York-area Jewish Community Centers shared how they teamed up with Plan A to merge their separate day camps into a single regional camp. The social enterprise conference, Power Your Mission 2, offered participants tools and insights to help their organizations reach the "next level." The slideshow used during the event can be downloaded here: Plan A - Mergers.
How to Be a Good Boss
In every workplace, supervisor/supervisee relations impose interpersonal dynamics that can make each day fulfilling or one of many other things. Nonprofits offer unique management challenges when staffing is inadequate, budgets are squeezed tight, and (sometimes) union rules pose limitations. This Plan A resource guide provides some best practices in good supervision: How to Be a Good Boss.
What Makes Good Boards Good?
Evan Kingsley of Plan A Advisors® moderated a panel at the Westchester Nonprofit Leadership Summit in Tarrytown, N.Y., featuring top leaders of regional organizations and outstanding advisors to nonprofits. Below are some of the resources shared and described at the workshop: 1) Plan A: What Makes Good Boards Good?, 2) Plan A: Running a Good Board Meeting, 3) ArtsWestchester Board Eval form, 4) Adapted Board Self Evaluation
Program Evaluation: Burden or Benefit?
More and more foundations expect to see an evaluation component in the programs they fund. In a time of limited resources, we have also seen that individual donors increasingly view their gifts as social "investments" and expect a social "return." However, program evaluations need not be costly, empirical studies conducted by outside evaluators. In fact, many nonprofits already have the tools to conduct their own evaluations and can gather and analyze the data that will help them to evaluate their work, broadcast their success, and leverage more resources to achieve their strategic goals. One tool that we use, adapted from one developed by Fiscal Management Associates, helps nonprofits to weigh the relative impact of their programs: Plan A Program Portfolio Analysis
What Makes a Great Strategic Plan?
Many of the strategic plans we see make great doorstops or bookends; their dense pages may be read just once with little likelihood that they will be implemented. So when shopping for a consultant to facilitate your planning process, ask to see a sample plan. It should 1) be clearly stated and concise, with an aspirational but realistic vision for the next few years, 2) be easy to implement without an owner's manual, 3) incorporate a realistic and affordable evaluation framework, 4) be directly tied to financial projections, 5) identify those responsible for implementation and reporting on progress, and 6) be flexible enough to make course corrections as evaluations are completed or an organization's financial position changes. In this way, a strategic plan becomes a tactical document, rather than a pie-in-the-sky exercise. Download our packet on "Strategic Planning 101: For Nonprofit and Voluntary Leaders": Plan A - Strategic Planning 101
Financial Management Resources for Nonprofits
Non-profit leaders may come to the job without academic or professional training in financial management, an area of increasing importance to funders, both private and public. To help close this gap, Plan A created a primer on Budgeting for High-Performing Nonprofits. Additionally, The Wallace Foundation has a website dedicated to providing free financial management resources and templates to non-profit organizations. Resources for Nonprofit Financial Management
Why Strategic Planning Doesn’t Necessarily Translate to Sound Decisions
We agree with Richard Marker's analysis that strong consulting practice does more than just fix a technical problem; if conducted well, high-quality consulting addresses the role that an organization's culture plays in supporting or undermining transformative change. Read more: Strategy is Culture
The Case for Gender Audits in the Jewish Communal Sector
"In the same year that the Jewish press has re-exposed gross inequalities in favor of men in the Jewish professional sector, there has been a growing movement by Jewish educators to attract and retain teen boys, whom many fear are dropping out of Jewish education at a higher rate than girls. In short, despite the fact that men dominate communal decision making, we are afraid that boys are disaffected!" Read more by Plan A's Adam Gaynor... "Pursuing Gender Equality: A Few Concrete Steps"
What is the Difference Between a Mission and Vision?
Put simply, a mission is the business of a nonprofit or company, and usually includes the approach that the organization employs. A vision describes the future position of the organization; what it hopes to achieve through its work after a specific period of time. Defining the vision is a core step in strategic and business planning. It provides a waypoint from which to work backward; defining a vision spurs an organization to develop plans, allocate resources, and evaluate success over time calibrated to well-defined benchmarks.