Does your nonprofit offer programs that may have started out promising, but have become disappointing? Do you have replacement programs in mind but haven’t yet secured funding for them? Consider subjecting your programming lineup to a good spring cleaning. That way, you can reallocate funds to offerings that have the best potential to meet your organization’s strategic objectives.
Perform new research
Instead of relying on old assumptions about your programs’ effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.
You may get mixed responses regarding the same program, so consider their source. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target. The opinion of a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year, on the other hand, is probably less reliable.
If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Also put in place an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.
Apply several measures, including subjective ones, before deciding to cut or fund a program. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.
If you meet resistance from major donors and other influential stakeholders, reassure them that you value their input. Provide them with numbers that illustrate the ineffectiveness of current programs and projections for possible replacements.
If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple. It can be much more difficult to come up with a new program to replace an obsolete one.
Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.
What to keep
Help ensure your nonprofit’s budget is deployed efficiently by periodically reviewing program efficacy. If you need help devising evaluation metrics or raising revenue to support programming decisions, contact us.