by Melanie Norton
A new year has started and for many that means new resolutions, new goals and new beginnings. The idea of a “fresh start” on the personal level seems appealing to many of us for a variety of reasons. On a professional level, however, the reset button rarely returns to zero.
In their online Outlook 2012, The Chronicle of Philanthropy shares its list of “5 Challenges for the Nonprofit World in 2012.” Among the list of formidable tasks for the coming year, there exists the ever increasing demand for charities to measure effectiveness and show results. Although calculating overhead ratio has been a common measure in the past, it is by no means a comprehensive assessment of effectiveness. However, it has yet to be replaced by a more practical evaluation measure.
I can safely say that measuring effectiveness seems to be a top priority for almost everyone in my professional network; clients, colleagues and friends alike. Many are feeling the pressure to justify their operations and existence, and the demands are coming from board members, donors and managers of all kinds.
Although there is no magic formula for success, following are a few tips you might find helpful as you look for ways to help maximize personal and programmatic effectiveness:
Do your homework. This means knowing your “business” inside and out. Knowing your business also means knowing your prospects and donors. And, don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer. A polite “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out right away” is much better than the alternative.
Concentrate on results and not on activity. This means maintaining a laser focus on the activities that will bring about the biggest return on investment. You can’t do it all, so don’t sacrifice essential functions for ones that are easier to accomplish or tend to be “busy work.” Working hard does not mean working smart.
Keep score. It sounds simple, but it’s not uncommon for programs and organizations – even successful ones - to be challenged by the basic task of getting important information recorded. If you’re the employer, make it as easy as possible for your employees to share needed information. If you’re the employee, be diligent in getting your information into the system or down on paper. It’s critical for not only today’s success, but also that of the future.
Work like an owner. I recently attended an AFP luncheon in Cincinnati where the speaker, Erika Dockery, asked the attendees to consider “what would I do today if I worked 100% on commission.” Although the concept may be more frequently heard in the for-profit arena, the results are advantageous for all.
Focus on the donor. You’ve heard it time and again, but it’s true. The best results occur when everyone walks away feeling like a winner. In the world of philanthropy, both the charity and the donor can do just that. There is no better “measure” of effectiveness.