What Are the Five Keys to Nonprofit Excellence?

May 2022

Regardless if you are an established multimillion-dollar organization or a small nonprofit just starting out, PMA believes there are Five Keys on which the best nonprofit organizations focus. While the issues within the framework will be unique to each organization, the core concepts remain the same. Achieving excellence requires a commitment to honestly evaluating your organization and a willingness to make changes when needed. If you're ready to take your nonprofit to the next level, keep reading to learn how the Five Keys to Nonprofit Excellence can help you achieve organizational excellence!

Sharpen Your Vision

Can everyone connected to your organization explain what you do in 30 seconds? If not, it's time to equip leadership, board, and staff with a unified elevator speech! But before you can do that, you have to know where the organization is today and where it is going in the future.

Does your nonprofit have a clearly defined strategic plan? How about a case statement of support? Have you identified a project wish list for funders? All three of these will sharpen your vision and provide a roadmap for achieving near-term goals.

An organization without a strategic plan is like a boat without a rudder. A high-quality strategic plan, built around how the organization is responding to a clearly defined community need, will provide the necessary framework, and from there case statements, wish lists, and even the elevator speech can be developed. This approach will not only help focus the work of the organization, it will help ensure everyone is speaking with a unified voice about the same goals.

Develop Your Talent

When most people hear "develop your talent," they think "professional development." And while meaningful professional development for existing staff is incredibly important, developing your talent is so much more than that.

As you sharpen your vision through the development of a strategic plan, identifying and prioritizing staff growth to meet the short and long-term growth goals of the organization in critical. Too often, growing organizational staff is executed haphazardly; thoughtful planning for growth can ensure you hire the right people for the right jobs at the right time. This is a good time to objectively evaluate your current hiring practices as well. If you do not have established standards for candidate recruitment, now is the time to create them. When developing job descriptions, be sure that they align with skill sets, rather than individuals. 

Board development is just as important as staff development! Identify the roles and expertise needed for your Board, and actively recruit those who are dedicated to your mission. A disengaged Board or one that lacks members who can fill the roles you need will make it more difficult to execute the organization's goals.

Finally, be willing to proactively make staff and board changes when needed.

Seek Your Alliances

No man is an island, and neither is your nonprofit. Identify other organizations serving the same population and evaluate partnership opportunities along a continuum of collaboration. Seek alliances that will help your organization grow, as well as those working in the same sector to discuss challenges and solutions. 

Just as important is proactively working with other organizations is determining where and why independence makes sense. Be sure you can articulate why a particular partnership does or does not make sense for your organization.

Attack Your Funding Cycle

Fundraising is more than just "raise money!" It requires thoughtful assessment and planning in order to successfully instill confidence in donors, volunteers, and stakeholders, grow annual revenue, and create a culture of philanthropy at the Board and staff level. Too often, fundraising is viewed as something that takes away from the mission; instead, envision fundraising as a unique opportunity to actively engage your supporters through targeted messaging about your work, connections with organizational ambassadors, and meaningful donor stewardship activities that express gratitude and increase support.

Start by creating a robust development plan that prioritizes the donor cycle. As part of this, distinguish strategies between individual, corporate, and foundation prospects for annual, major, and planned giving potential. Develop and utilize Key Performance Indicators to track performance and measure success of your fundraising activities. Like an organization that lacks a strategic plan, a development team without an intentional fundraising plan will lack direction and is not set up to succeed.

Evaluate Your Capacity

All the planning in the world is worthless if your organization doesn't have the capacity to carry out its mission. Capacity covers a lot of ground: money, people, technology, partners, and more. You should be constantly assessing your existing capacity, and what greater capacity would allow without sacrificing quality.

One way to review and develop capacity is ensuring that timeline, benchmarks, and accountability measures are in place. Monitoring progress towards short and long-term goals will help identify where additional capacity is needed and where future growth should occur.

PMA Nonprofit Leadership has helped nearly 250 organizations and their leaders across the nonprofit sector by utilizing the Five Keys Framework. From strategic planning to board & staff development to fundraising, we can help! We understand your challenges facing nonprofits, and our singular focus is to help you succeed. Contact us today to schedule a no obligation phone call and learn more about the services we offer.