Discover the 25 Critical Factors that will help ensure your long-term success.

Serving others through nonprofit work often involves helping people in immediate need, but that doesn’t mean leaders can ignore the future.  In fact, focusing on today only, can be a huge mistake for any organization no matter how busy things are at any moment.

While this may seem like trying to spin several plates at the same time, it’s critical to the agency’s future and mission, that leaders step back and focus on the future as much as the present.

In his best selling book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber discusses the importance of leaders stepping back from their organization’s day-to-day activities and looking at the organization from a different perspective.

Gerber believes leaders should periodically pull themselves out of their daily routine to work on their business, not just in their business. The same holds true for nonprofit leaders. While this may seem like a subtle shift of emphasis, it really can have a huge impact.

So, how can nonprofit leaders and board members insure both outstanding client services today and into the future? There are several factors that contribute to a nonprofit’s long-term health and sustainability that need your periodic review and attention. You probably should be working on 1-2 of them at any given time, in addition to your normal duties and current goals.

25 Critical Factors to Future-Proof Your Nonprofit

  1. Does your agency have diverse revenue streams or do you rely on just a few major ones to fund operations?
  2. How effective is your board? Do you have gaps in desired professional skills, talents, or competencies?
  3. Are you satisfied with the relationships with your strategic partners or do you need to cultivate more?
  4. Is it time to develop major gifts or planned giving initiatives?
  5. Can you better engage you board in developing those major gifts?
  6. Could you serve more clients or do it better with a secondary location?
  7. Is your board fully engaged and effective or do you and the board chair need to speak to a few directors about their performance?
  8. How well do you and your board work together? Is it time for some frank and honest talk?
  9. Does your leadership team work well together or is it time for some team-building activities?
  10. Do any of your leadership team members need a straight-talk performance discussion?
  11. When was the last time you conducted a needs assessment of your clients’ needs? Are all your programs still the best way to serve them today?
  12. How do you measure the effectiveness of your current programs? How do you know they actual work?
  13. Do you have on your board today, 1 or 2 good potential candidates to serve as the next board chair?
  14. Do you have a list of qualified candidates to join your board in the near future as current members rotate off?
  15. Does a Temporary Emergency Succession or Leadership Plan exist in case the executive director becomes seriously ill or is hurt in an accident? 
  16. How are you investing in the development of your subordinates?
  17. What activities should you and the agency be doing more of, less of, or protect at all costs?
  18. What is your agency’s weakest point and what can you do this year to fix it?
  19. What is your agency’s greatest strength and how can you leverage it for greater impact this year?
  20. Are your fundraising activities paying off or is it time to develop new, fresh approaches to development?
  21. What areas of the agency would improve through a cost vs. benefit analysis?
  22. Are all agency resources (people, budget, activities, etc) in alignment with your strategic plan and current goals?
  23. Would you personally benefit by exposure to new thinking from the outside, such as by joining a peer advisory group with like-minded and like-hearted leaders such as a masterminds group, or others?
  24. Is your board’s thinking in alignment or are meetings often characterized by disagreement and a lack of focus? If so, it may be time for a board assessment or a board survey on the board or agency’s SWOT, direction, and operations.
  25. Do your board meetings have a future-focus or do they just focus on finances, programming, and current activities, etc? 

Some of these factors may involve a significant amount of time and effort from you, your leadership, or your staff. It’s unlikely you could work on more than 1-2 of them at a time, and that’s ok. But if you take the time to unplug and focus on your agency and its future, you can identify 1 or 2 of these key issues to work on this year to help insure your agency’s long-term health and viability.

So, is your nonprofit future-proof? For more insight into the performance of your nonprofit, and to find out if you’re on track for success, take the Break Through nonprofit assessment. Your score may provide you with the critical information you need, to make some tough decisions.