Can Five Questions Change the Nonprofit World?

By on Wednesday, November 3, 2010
“Charting Impact” is a new effort by Guidestar USA, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and the Independent Sector to help nonprofit organizations focus on their goals and results. The five questions are:
– What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
– What are your strategies for making this happen?

– What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

– How will your organization know if you are making progress?

– What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

While efforts to encourage evaluation and introspection can be incredibly useful, the reality is that nonprofit organizations who have been raising money, applying for grants, and talking to the community are already answering these questions. Any organization that has filled out a detailed grant application, applied for a public service announcement, or written an annual appeal letter should be able to answer these questions in their sleep.

While the questions may be simplistic, they bring up a good point. Nonprofit organizations do need to zero in and focus. Far too often, charities become too broad in focus and find themselves spinning their wheels. They feel like they’ve tumbled off mission by following a plethora of things that are good to do, but may not contribute to achieving their mission.

While many well-funded grant projects require evaluation (and there are some wonderful firms out there who examine nonprofit programs carefully) there is a lack of evaluative effort in the nonprofit community as a whole. Far too often, organizations are set up hastily and duplicate services. A needs assessment and strategic planning can go a long way to helping organizations find their footing. After programs are put in place, evaluation measures can be implemented to determine if an organization is on target or falling victim to mission creep and a spate of good intentions.
Good public relations for nonprofit organizations should talk about results and impart a vision for where the organization is heading. Can five questions change the nonprofit world? Maybe. But we need to reach well beyond these questions to the research, numbers, statistics, stories, impacts, and self-assessments from program recipients and staff.
The five questions are a great place to start the nonprofit sector conversation on this topic, but more needs to be done to talk about the nuts and bolts of demonstrating benchmarks and results.

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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