The Power of Data: 5 Ways To Maximize Your Programs
The Power of Data: 5 Ways To Maximize Your Programs

Nearly every excelling nonprofit grows on the foundation of innovative idealism. However, the other integral aspect to these organizations’ successes is the careful planning that goes into the idea-implementation process. 

Where many nonprofit leaders fail is when these new ideas are presented and implemented without undergoing rigorous functional testing, according to David Vanderpool, MD, co-founder and CEO of LiveBeyond, a faith-based humanitarian organization in Nashville, Tennessee.

At best, this results in wasted time, energy, and resources; in turn, it demoralizes organizational workforces. This negligence — specifically within international non-profit communities — can do tremendous harm to the local people being served.

How can organizations improve this process in practical and effective ways? Here are five tips from Vanderpool.

Accurately Form Assessments: The initial step is potentially the most crucial; You must first carefully assess to know what you are working with to successfully accomplish this goal. It is crucial you are in-person to assess needs, rather than evaluating from afar. Instead of jumping to solutions based on past similar situations, you should accurately look at new situations with a fresh and thorough lens, accounting for all nuances.

Rather than trying to solve the problems of an entirely different culture with methods we culturally deem best (such as Americans giving free food to impoverished third-world communities), we work toward helping in sustainable ways that are more culturally sensitive and considerate of all local stakeholders (such as maximizing local food purchases and improving farming techniques). You must educate ourselves regarding the communities where we will serve instead of relying on amateur generalizations of cultural needs based on past short-term service experiences. 

Prioritize Specific Programs: Next, in the importance of choosing a functional program, it is essential you (1) determine which needs intersect our skillset and budget, and (2) confirm you have the resources to complete the program. 

According to Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, in their book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, to ensure you prioritize and execute a well-implemented plan, you can do the following: Evaluate the highest priority problem; Relay in simple, clear, and concise terms the highest priority effort; Develop and determine a solution, and seek input from key leaders and the team; Direct the solution execution; focus all efforts and resources toward this priority task; Move on to the next highest priority problem. Repeat.; When priorities shift, pass situational awareness both up and down the chain; and, Don’t let the focus on one priority cause target fixation; maintain the ability to see other problems developing and rapidly shift as needed.

Plan Properly: From leadership to those working directly in the service field, the planning process needs to incorporate all levels of organizational expertise. In order to best achieve this goal, try these tips: Make sure skillsets and experience align with the intended project; Ensure that the project lines up with the organization’s mission statement; Establish practical project management; Form an accurate program budget; Create sensible goals that will establish program success; and, Develop and abide by a training protocol.

Measure What Matters: Measuring outcomes helps test the quality of program concepts. In using these measurements, you can improve the results of our programs by maintaining practices or implementing changes. 

How can you best measure results to maximally benefit the people we serve? You can study and analyze outcomes weekly; Narrow the studies and specify what is to be measured; Utilize information at all organizational levels; unify organizations to achieve common goals; and, Increase granularity of measurements to better understand how to implement effective solutions.

Implement Measures To Prove Results: As an excellent steward of donors’ funds, you must frequently provide outcome measures to prove your work’s quality. These measures should include both quantitative and qualitative results. 

These outcome measure reports often help in the following ways: Informing shareholders; Surmounting, planning, and implementing frequent solutions; Constantly monitoring and evaluating programs; Avoiding resource waste; Preventing harm to local communities; and, Accomplishing goals.

All in all, it is crucial to operate nonprofits with result-oriented approaches to ensure that funds, human capital, material resources and efforts are not wasted in the field. Favorable intentions alone do not always produce excellent results. Through proper assessment, program-type, planning, measurement, and progress reporting — we can set the target standard to improve our service programs.