News & Views

A blog for those interested in what affects, motivates and drives the New York City Nonprofit Sector — written by CRE’s crackerjack consulting team. We hope you use this space to share your thoughts, ask questions and engage in conversations about our city, social justice and the nonprofit sector.

5 Questions Driving Organizational Effectiveness

By Louisa Hackett - What makes an organization effective? Sure strong managers, high performing staff, visionary leaders, sufficient resources and up-to-date technology all play a part. But a critical element, maybe the most critical, is clarity of purpose. Without knowing fundamentally what an organization is striving to accomplish and for whom, the chance to have the most effective programs is lost and muddled, diffuse programming can follow.

Nonprofits can lose their way for a variety of reasons. Funding opportunities can determine how an organization grows and funder expectations can drive program design. Too often growth by RFP results in programs operating independently with little knowledge about or coordination with each other. Mission drift can also occur in the face of an overwhelming demand for services. Without direction about who gets priority, people are enrolled or helped on a first-come, first-served basis. But the individuals most in need of assistance may not be coming through the door.

How can answering a few questions make an organization effective? Asking and answering the right questions provides direction. Direction provides a clear focus that enables individuals, resources and programs to be aligned around activities that the organization has determined will produce intended results. In other words, the change the organization wants to make drives what an organization chooses to do.

Planning Question #1: Why does our organization exist?
There can be a long tenuous connection between what an organization wants to achieve and the specific role the organization plays to get there. Given the enormous obstacles nonprofits face in striving to make the world a better place, it is understandable how groups identify lofty and far reaching goals: world peace, full employment, college ready students, etc. The challenge is to be both expansive and focused.

Community Resource Exchange (CRE), for example, has always worked to make New York City more fair and just. That is a pretty big goal. While we have always known the focus of our work is nonprofit organizations fighting poverty and advancing social justice, we recently narrowed our focus even more by confirming our work is to make these organizations both stronger (management wise) and more effective (program wise).

Planning Question #2: For whom does our organization exist?
Defining who is being targeted for an organization’s change efforts can be simultaneously easy and hard. Easy because changing the world means there is a large sphere of impact: lots of people to help and policy issues to influence. Hard because given limited resources, choices need to be made. We can’t impact everything and serve everyone. Deciding who or what gets attention is difficult because it is hard to say no.

Answering why we exist and for whom provides the framework for how to answer the next three critical questions:
  • Planning Question #3: What does meaningful success look like?
  • Planning Question #4: What programs and services get us to success?
  • Planning Question #5: How do we manage for effectiveness?

Look out for part two of this blog post which will share examples of how other organizations have taken on answering questions three, four and five.

For more information about how CRE can help you answer these five strategic questions, please visit the Practice Areas section of our website.


5 Questions Driving Organizational Effectiveness

By Louisa Hackett - What makes an organization effective? Sure strong managers, high performing staff, visionary leaders, sufficient resources and up-to-date technology all play a part. But a critical element, maybe the most critical, is clarity of purpose. Without knowing fundamentally what an organization is striving to accomplish and for whom, the chance to have the most effective programs is lost and muddled, diffuse programming can follow.

Nonprofits can lose their way for a variety of reasons. Funding opportunities can determine how an organization grows and funder expectations can drive program design. Too often growth by RFP results in programs operating independently with little knowledge about or coordination with each other. Mission drift can also occur in the face of an overwhelming demand for services. Without direction about who gets priority, people are enrolled or helped on a first-come, first-served basis. But the individuals most in need of assistance may not be coming through the door.

How can answering a few questions make an organization effective? Asking and answering the right questions provides direction. Direction provides a clear focus that enables individuals, resources and programs to be aligned around activities that the organization has determined will produce intended results. In other words, the change the organization wants to make drives what an organization chooses to do.

Planning Question #1: Why does our organization exist?
There can be a long tenuous connection between what an organization wants to achieve and the specific role the organization plays to get there. Given the enormous obstacles nonprofits face in striving to make the world a better place, it is understandable how groups identify lofty and far reaching goals: world peace, full employment, college ready students, etc. The challenge is to be both expansive and focused.

Community Resource Exchange (CRE), for example, has always worked to make New York City more fair and just. That is a pretty big goal. While we have always known the focus of our work is nonprofit organizations fighting poverty and advancing social justice, we recently narrowed our focus even more by confirming our work is to make these organizations both stronger (management wise) and more effective (program wise).

Planning Question #2: For whom does our organization exist?
Defining who is being targeted for an organization’s change efforts can be simultaneously easy and hard. Easy because changing the world means there is a large sphere of impact: lots of people to help and policy issues to influence. Hard because given limited resources, choices need to be made. We can’t impact everything and serve everyone. Deciding who or what gets attention is difficult because it is hard to say no.

Answering why we exist and for whom provides the framework for how to answer the next three critical questions:
  • Planning Question #3: What does meaningful success look like?
  • Planning Question #4: What programs and services get us to success?
  • Planning Question #5: How do we manage for effectiveness?

Look out for part two of this blog post which will share examples of how other organizations have taken on answering questions three, four and five.

For more information about how CRE can help you answer these five strategic questions, please visit the Practice Areas section of our website.

Find us on:  CRE on Twitter CRE on Facebook  

News and Views

Tags

Volunteers board leadership Needs Assessment leadership Holly Delany Cole NYCCCOC Peter Block Stanford Social Innovation Review Maria Mottola Board of Directors Hurricane Sandy Alliance for Nonprofit Management internal controls nonprofit accountability Interns CRE POV grantmakers for effective organizations Rona Taylor capacity building President Obama HIV/AIDS services providers Karen Erdos Government Updates Albany Nonprofit Tools tips media civic engagement collaborations Jeff Ballow Randall Quan guest blogger Mark Light Pamela Dicent Data nonprofit management House Party Nonprofit News Barbara Blumenthal postponed event New York Times Harvard Kennedy School Funding Updates Valyrie Laedlein What is Core? Huffington Post Mohan Sikka Nonprofit fundraising New York City Government National and Community Service CRE Tips evaluation government nonprofit ownership executive transition Coaching grantmakers Data Starved Useful Links NYS Budget Daring to Lead MAC AIDS Fund Government News proposal writing CRE Executive Search Bill Ryan National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy record keeping staff Fran's Corner Ero Gray generative rockaways queens Featured Items foundations United Way of NYC arts Neighborhood Based Capacity Building Initiative lower Manhattan RFP Pavitra Menon mergers publications nonprofit start-ups jobs Rashid Littlejohn community New York Community Trust strategic alliances I.T. without I.T. Louisa Hackett Development Survey Michael Hickey Nonprofit Quarterly bookkeeping Ximena Rua-Merkin Jean Lobell announcment IT Client News CRE News nonprofit mergers executive website, resources, announcements cre Governance as Leadership New York Nonprofit Sustainability nonprofit leaders 30th Anniversary Barbara Turk hard times HR Without HR Sector Research Philanthropic Collaborative board and staff relations Fran Barrett handling the unexpected Advocacy harvard business school accountability case statement Beth Kobliner computers New York Foundation