One of the challenges of nonprofit work is to keep things relevant, lean and efficient. Programs and projects often become bogged down over time or because the organization is so focused on keeping the doors open, there are not resources or staff time devoted to evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of program elements. If a program has existed for a while without any changes, it is probably time to evaluate the elements and rework the program to increase its usefulness.
Let’s consider a program providing health care to homeless individuals in a mid-size town: the program has been in existence for over ten years and there has been a reasonably high turnover rate for staff (typical of many nonprofit programs.) Over the years the program has changed not because of the stated needs of those served but due to funding'”different foundations and grant funding have required different elements of the program. The program has become bogged down with reporting and staff are starting to wonder if it is even serving the intended population any longer. It is time to dig into the elements of the program and re-vamp it for relevancy.
Consider whether or not the target population being served has changed. For example, a program serving homeless might change based on the economic realities, whether or not there is an increase in homeless veterans due to those returning from a war, or other realities. A program serving homeless will need to change to meet the needs of those being served, as well as to take into account changes in “best practices,” duplication of other organization or services in the area, and other specifics.
Start by sketching out all the details of the program'”who does what, the collaborative organizations and agencies, the expenses and revenue, the challenges and successes, etc. Once you get the program sketched out on paper, you can start to look at what elements are useful and which ones need to be adjusted or eliminated all together. It is important to periodically evaluate the effectiveness and process elements of a nonprofit program for the overall health of the organization or agency.