There is a very familiar quote that most of us have either heard or said at one point in time – “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”
When it comes to starting and growing a nonprofit organization, planning is fundamental.
You can only get so far without it. I know a lot of people who simply started their nonprofit organization out of a sincere desire to help or improve their community. They never intended to become an entrepreneur they just got busy helping and found themselves running a business.
I happen to love stories like this. It’s very inspiring to see.
However, once you find yourself in the midst of a business, one of two things tend to happen. At some point you hit a wall in your business. You’re no longer growing. You’re just keeping pace with what you’ve been doing and generally reacting to everything. Being proactive is rarely an option.
The second scenario is when you get to the place of stagnancy you do some course correction. You evaluate what’s working and what’s not working, and then make adjustments accordingly. Eventually you get on the path to success.
Obviously, the latter of these two scenarios leads to prosperity in the business and/or program.
There is one thing that will prevent these paths – having a plan BEFORE you jump in. For some that’s easier said than done.
In the field of prevention we have an evidenced-based model we use to plan community programs. It’s called the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF). It’s a public health model that is typically used to reduce substance abuse, but these principles can be used in any business setting.
The SPF’s five key steps and two overarching elements assists organizations in developing the infrastructure needed for community level change and sustainable outcomes.
- Assessment –an assessment is a comprehensive and systematic gathering and analysis of data to identify and address local problems and resources. Conducting an assessment will ensure that you get all the relevant information you need before you make a decision on the course you should take with your organization and/or program.
- Capacity Building – this step involves taking a close look at your assessment data, finding the gaps that lie therein, and developing an action plan to address those gaps. Key components of capacity building include increasing the availability of fiscal, human, organizational and other resources.
- Planning – this step includes developing a comprehensive strategic plan that is logical, data driven, and focused on evidenced- based strategies to address problems identified in the assessment.
- Implementation– It’s time to put your plans into action. This step is where you execute your plan.
- Evaluation – this step is the systematic collection and analysis of information about program activities, characteristics, and outcomes to reduce uncertainty, improve effectiveness, and make decisions.
The two overarching elements that must be considered at every step of the SPF are cultural competence and sustainability.
Cultural competence describes the ability of an organization or individual to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Essentially, it means being respectful and responsive to the health beliefs, practices, and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse population groups.
Sustainability pertains to ensuring your program is around for the long haul. It includes sufficient fiscal resources to sustain the program, strong leadership, technical expertise, as well as strong administrative and financial management. It also includes support and engagement from policy makers, the community and other key stakeholders.
The most important thing to remember about the SPF is that it’s not a linear process, it’s a continuum. These five steps should be ongoing.
If you can go through these steps before you get started, you will dramatically increase your likelihood for success.
You will also position your organization to receive major funding. This is an evidenced-based model that is recommended by the federal government so if you’re using it, it will make it easier to get funded. It will give your organization a systematic way of getting things done and reaching your outcomes.
Now I have a question for you: Do you think these steps can help you run your organization more effectively?