Are your programs relatively the same as they were a few years ago? If so, it’s time to review each of your programs and potentially replace, or simply refresh, your offerings.
Many nonprofits keep programs long after they’ve stopped working. Instead of relying on old assumptions about their effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.
When reviewing your survey results, consider the source of the comment. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target than is a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year.
Set Goals and Evaluate
If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Additionally, construct an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.
It’s vital that you apply several measures before deciding to cut or fund a program, even subjective measures. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.
Refresh or Replace?
Identifying programs to do away with is easier than creating completely new ones. If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple, and a brand new program isn’t even necessary.
Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.
Be Mindful of All Opinions
Even if it’s clear to you and your staff which programs are obsolete, some stakeholders may object to your proposals. Handle these individuals — particularly donors — with care.