I haven’t fallen off the grid, but I’ve been very busy helping organizations wrap up their holiday campaigns, take stock and prepare to improve their marketing, fundraising and communications programs in 2010*.
Even if the executive director or Board isn’t asking for it, everyone who leads one or all of these functions for a non-profit should document their evaluation of their 2009 program. (Look for a suggested evaluation process outline in tomorrow’s post.)
Here are some comments I’ve received when I suggest doing such an evaluation:
- I don’t have time
- They’re not asking for it
- Wouldn’t that be bragging if I’m a department of one?
I’ll come back to comment #1 and #2 in a moment, but I thought I’d share with you my response to #3, which I received by email on Friday from a capable staffer who is about a year into a new position with a small but thriving non-profit:
Don’t be sheepish about reporting how you did on performance metrics that were visible to the board. You are evaluating the function, or, alternatively, the plan. Even if you are a department of one, it’s important to show the Board that you are a good steward of the organization’s limited resources. It shows that the function continues to learn and adapt.
Internally, it’s important for the chief executive to scrutinize and evaluate every major aspect of the operation. Especially when a function is relatively new, it’s important to shape the conversation about how it should be evaluated. Start with the details and work backwards to the information that is “board worthy” in your situation. For example, your one or two page executive summary for the Board should report results for metrics that rise to the level of a dashboard, key measures that are directly related to the organization’s health. But it’s also wise to capture major conclusions from new things that you tried this year.
Your executive summary is an opportunity to continue to educate the Board – bring them along with what you’re learning. Although you don’t seem to face this challenge, it’s pretty common for Board members to ask management to “do an ad” or implement some kind of marketing tactic that is not well founded in strategy (at best) or harebrained (at worst). Finally, if the Board had a responsibility for implementing some of the tactics, it’s also good to hold the mirror up so that they can have a conversation about their own follow through.
As for comment #1, make time. An evaluation helps you figure out where time and money are being wasted.
And as for comment #2, that’s code for “if they can’t pin me down, I can’t look bad.” Two of the main drivers of any non-profit’s success are fundraising and communications/image. Begin to lead the dialogue about how the Board should keep its finger on the pulse.
*Of the three organizations that I’ve been intensely involved with this year, two raised 20% more than year prior and one came out about even, which isn’t bad for a difficult year. Woo hoo!