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.
What Makes Good Boards Good?
Plan A Advisors® worked with UJA-Federation of New York to develop a guide to nonprofit governance best practices for its network of agencies across the eight-county New York metropolitan area. The full guide is available for download here: Good Governance: A Practice Guide for Nonprofit Partners of UJA-Federation.
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
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.
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
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.