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mission Matters

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

July 25, 2013

Reviewing programs and services to ensure the not-for-profit organization is better than it was the year before.

In 2013, Rick Pitino was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. His first major college coaching job was at Providence College where he impressed many with his ability to mold young college basketball players. At a booster luncheon one day he was asked what his objective was with each player on the team. Pitino replied that his goal was to help students graduate better basketball players than when they arrived at the College four years earlier.

That should be the overarching goal of the Board of Directors. Each year, the organization should be a better organization than it was the year before. Of course, there are any number of ways in which an organization may improve, but a commitment to continual improvement is a worthy goal for any Board.

The core principal of continuous improvement is the self-reflection process; obtaining and reviewing feedback from what is happening. Improving efficiency by the identification, reduction and elimination of sub-optimal processes is the primary purpose and a commitment to continual steps rather than giant leaps (an evolution) is the emphasis.

It is very easy to address a mission by repeating programs year after year, especially if those programs are resulting in some measure of success. It is difficult to review a seemingly successful program and ask if and how it could be improved. If something changed by 10%, having the discipline to ask why it didn’t change by 11 or 15% may not be the most popular thing to do. We all would rather celebrate the 10% victory.

The profit motive in the for-profit world provides a strong incentive for continuous improvement. Even though the not-for-profit world faces a similar array of business challenges, the lack of a clearly defined goal such as net income can lull management and the Board into repetitive tactics and programming. The Board’s role is to bring good business measurement and management practices into the organization.

Periodically, the Board should ask for a review of various programs and services. The review should include a critical analysis of the goals and how those goals relate to the organization’s overall mission. Next one should review the individual programs and services involved in trying to achieve those goals; asking good questions and expecting good answers. Ask how other organizations in other areas of the country approach this mission. Inquire as to the strongest and weakest portions of the program and determine what is needed to improve the strongest and why the weakest should not be discontinued entirely.

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

Read more on not-for-profit boards:
Board Development Series

As one of the largest CPA firms in Boston, KLR is unique because they service over 220 not-for-profit organizations with compliance and consulting services. We have extensive experience helping Nonprofit organizations regarding boards, and board responsibilities, charitable contributions, taxes and 990 filing requirements. The KLR Nonprofit team is active in our local community and not-for-profit organizations, visit our Facebook page to see photos from our latest volunteer event.

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