There’s no time like mid-year to evaluate your nonprofit’s performance. Now’s the time to measure how planning and strategizing have paid off and more significantly, what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. No matter whether your fiscal year ends in December or June, at some point, you’ll reach mid-year for your nonprofit and an evaluation will come in handy when moving forward.
Are your goals as an organization loosely defined and vague? Mid-year reviews are an outstanding opportunity to not only look back on achievements, but to also look ahead and set positive, stimulating goals for the remainder of the year. Research studies show that challenging and specific goals spur positive performance.
For a starting point, let’s take the standards set by the big charity watchdogs to do a mid-year “physical” of our own nonprofit. The key areas are fiscal, governance, transparency/accountability, and impact. Adding a fifth category – Stewardship – will put some focus on the lifeblood of any organization, the relationship with your donors and supporters.
1. How’s your mid-year fiscal wellness?
Is the cash-flow positive? By reviewing the first half of the year, you’ll have a better picture of your financial situation for the remainder. Have the fundraising goals for the first six months been met?
Crucial to great fundraising organizations is setting firm deadlines for every job that needs doing. Having specific people responsible for each task makes tracking progress easier for the development director or supervisor.
Non-profits that meet or exceed their fundraising goals tend to focus on individual donors, because that’s where the money is. Over 70% of all donations collected by non-profits come from individuals. In 2013, individual giving amounted to approximately $240.6 billion (72%), a 4.2% increase over 2012.
2. Is your governance in line with your goals?
Within your annual working strategy, you’ll need to check that all systems are on track and in agreement with the long term goals of the organization. Are audits and tax reports up to date and other necessary state and federal legal filings current?
3. Your impact and effectiveness
Measuring the impact your nonprofit has on those it serves is a relatively new metric and one that can be hard to define. Think in terms of the change you seek to bring, and then how to measure those changes.
Numbers can be dry and dusty, rather show the trail; the actions to the outcomes. How many really got jobs, how many wells were dug, how many people were fed, how many lives were improved as a result of your nonprofit?
- Find out how your services work by asking the people you serve. Measuring the results of your nonprofit’s programs is not easy, but it‘s essential. Knowing how well your programs work is an important guidepost for planning the long term goals. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will show you where to trim unnecessary expenditures and where to focus your efforts.
- Highlight your victories and show donors that by supporting your organization, they are creating the change they want to see. Self-assessment is undertaken by organizations, serious about their mission. They create a culture that supports outcomes thinking. Some resources to help your organization effectively measure outcomes can be found here.
- Don’t ignore numbers in favor of stories, or vice versa. Having said that, assemble a variety of data. Get comments from those people who benefit from your work and collect their stories.
- Put adequate systems in place. Where will you gather, analyze and store all that information? Set up spreadsheets, get a database, or develop an online system.
There are benefits and rewards when you share the impact of the work through the personal stories of the people helped. Donors feel an emotional connection when they realize that their contribution is making a difference in peoples’ lives. Putting that difference into words or pictures, through testimonials or on video is powerful!
Treat measurement as an investment; measuring your outcomes takes time, work and resources.
4. Transparency and accountability
One of the best tools to illustrate the impact and accountability of your nonprofit is on its own website. The mid-year review is a great time to update your online information and tweak the website so it’s up-to-date, and eye-catching.
5. Donor stewardship
Have all your donors and supporters received timely thank you notes? Are you tracking new prospects or just guessing where they’re at? Do you know where prospects and donors stand in relation to making a gift?
Non-profits that succeed at their fundraising targets will focus on individual donors, not only grants and government support. Because over 70% of all money raised by non-profits comes from individuals, go where the prospects are and spend your time cultivating individual givers. Do you have a prospect or donor funnel?
Successful fundraising charities will have a clearly defined pathway to lead prospects through, known as a donor funnel. This will include some specific means to reach out to new prospects along with a system for nurturing potential donors after that first contact.
6. Include everyone
Don’t forget your co-workers with the mid-year review, focus on individual strengths to boost performance and build stronger bonds with your team. The review is also a good time to acknowledge early successes and set challenging and specific targets for the rest of the year. Organizations with specific goals perform better than those without.
A mid-year review can be an exciting time for a nonprofit. With a comprehensive understanding of what worked and what didn’t, the whole organization can move forward with renewed drive, enthusiasm and commitment to achieve the vision.