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Board Member Responsibility #9: Determine, Monitor, and Strengthen the Organization’s Programs and Services.

April 16, 2021

In part 9 of our Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards series, we take a look at the organization’s programs and services and ensuring that they align with the organization’s mission.

*Editor's Note: This blog has been updated as of April 16, 2021 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Have you been following our board responsibility blog series? In part 9, we take a look at the Board’s fundamental responsibility to ensure that current and proposed programs and services align with the Organization’s mission and purpose. Monitoring the impact of these programs and services will strengthen and create continuous improvement. Each year, the organization should be better than it was before.

What is the self-evaluation process like?

The core principle of continuous improvement is the self-evaluation process. The Board should know what the organization does and what its impact is. Monitoring results help guide the future programs that the organization chooses to stop, start, and keep doing. Of course, there are several ways an organization can measure improvement.

What should the board focus on during the evaluation process?

Obtaining and reviewing feedback from current programs, events, and activities is a critical way to get information on the success of the programs. Improving efficiency by identifying, reducing, and eliminating suboptimal operations is the primary purpose, and a commitment to continual steps rather than giant leaps (an evolution not a revolution) is the emphasis.

The Board should focus on the impact based on its key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs differ for each organization some examples are number of clients served, number of program graduates, amount of food distributed, and the list continues.

How to ensure a program remains successful through the years

It is effortless to address a mission by repeating programs year after year, primarily if those programs result in some measure of success. It is difficult to review a seemingly successful program and ask how to improve. If something changed by 10%, having the discipline to ask why it didn't change by 15% or 20% may not be the most popular thing to do. We all would instead celebrate the 10% victory.

Periodically, the Board should ask for a review of various programs and services. The process should include a critical analysis of the goals and how those goals relate to its overall mission. Next, one should review each service and program involved in achieving those goals, asking good questions, and expecting good answers. The organization can also benchmark itself to other organizations in other areas of the country. Inquire as to the strongest and weakest portions of the program, determine what is needed to improve the strongest and evaluate others for termination.

If you want to make your program 100% better, find and make 100 small changes and improvements. Remember, your goal is a continual evolutionary improvement; you are not looking for revolutionary insights into dramatic change.

Read more on not-for-profit boards: Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Board Series

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