It’s all too easy to let not-for-profit programs that have outlived their effectiveness to continue, even as they consume budget resources. To help ensure your resources are being deployed efficiently and effectively, consider using the tradition of spring cleaning to review and, potentially, replace older programs.
Go to the sources
Instead of relying on old assumptions about your programs’ effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.
You may get mixed responses regarding the same program, so consider their source. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target than is a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year.
Use the right measurements
If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Also put in place an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.
Apply several measures, including subjective ones, before deciding to cut or fund a program. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.
If you meet resistance from major donors and other influential stakeholders, reassure them that you value their input. Provide them with numbers that illustrate the ineffectiveness of current programs and projections for possible replacements.
Make it better
It’s usually easier to identify obsolete programs than to decide on new ones. If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple.
Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.
What to keep
Naturally, programs that continue to further your nonprofit’s mission and meet constituents’ needs should stay in place. But your nonprofit likely harbors a few cobwebs that should be cleared to make way for more effective initiatives.
We highly recommend you confer with your Miller Kaplan advisor to understand your specific situation and how this may impact you.