Doing an organizational assessment helps to assess your operational capacity and identify strengths and areas for improvement. It leads to ensuring a strong foundation from which to add a program or undertake a major change effort. It can also develop a common understanding among board and organizational leaders and managers regarding what needs to be done in your nonprofit. It can help you assess how your nonprofit compares to what are suggested as standards for nonprofits.
An organizational assessment looks at categories of strength indicators including: legal, governance, human resources, strategic planning, program planning, evaluations, finances and fundraising.
What purpose does the assessment have? It might do any of the following:
- Provide stakeholders with information about the organization’s performance (to demonstrate organizational competence for funders)
- Generate information that will be useful in planning and decision-making
- Identify resources (human and other) that the organization can use to effectively improve its performance
- Identify needs that should be addressed through specific actions through an action plan
- Respond to a need or desire to change an organization’s performance in meeting mission, and determine where you should invest resources for change
Ultimately, doing an organizational assessment is a process that creates opportunities for reflecting about appropriate paths for the future. You may need help in making certain types of decisions, such as:
- Strategic decisions: Should you grow? Merge? Shrink? Change/expand your mission?
- Program decisions: Should you expand your programs? Partner with someone? Should you offer new services?
- Financial feasibility decisions: Should you diversify your funding sources and if so, how? Should new approaches to fundraising be identified? Should you consider fee-for-service or expansion?
- Staffing decisions: Should you hire staff with different skills to support your mission? Should you let some staff go and if so, who? Do staff have the skills they need to meet complex situations?
Strategic Thinking and Planning
Strategic planning helps nonprofits focus and (1) make clear decisions about purpose (mission/vision) and (2) lays out the strategy to achieving goals in an intentional way. It is a process that engages key stakeholders in committing to priorities, aligns human and financial resources to those priorities. Strategic planning allows you to achieve more impact by prioritizing the day to day activities of action resulting in the greatest impact. A strategic planning consultant can help you design the process, facilitate the discussions, act as project manager, and ensure that you end up with a written plan that works for your organization.
Mission Alignment & Theory of Change
Do you have a clear, coherent medium- to long-term strategy that is both actionable and linked to overall mission, vision, and overarching goals? And is your strategy known throughout the organization (do you have measurements and dashboards?) Does your strategy help drive day-to-day behavior at all levels of the organization? Do you have a theory of change (logic model) that aligns activities to outputs and outcomes? And is your staff trained on how to tie programs to the model? Development or review of your theory of change will also ensure that your organization is fulfilling measurement and reporting requirements for grants and other donors. You may also want to do a needs assessment to see where the gaps lie between where you are currently and where you desire to be in meeting community needs.