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  • Dr. Ken Thiessen

The Problems I Help Nonprofits Solve

Updated: Jul 14





There are some problems that are common to most nonprofits that I help them solve with the 7 Attributes of Agile GrowthTM Planning Framework I use in my work with their organizations and their executive leadership teams and boards.

1. Taking your Strategic Plan from Idea to Implementation

Many nonprofit organizations and their leadership teams have grand and noble dreams of how they want to make a difference in the world. In spite of the sincerity of their dreams few have a clear plan as to how they are going to take those dreams from idea to implementation to actually make that difference in the world. My planning framework focuses on taking those great ideas and then developing a clear implementation plan to help my clients scale up their impact in the world and do even more good in the world than they dreamed possible.


2. Measuring What Matters

The one thing that all nonprofits measure is revenue and expenditures. What most nonprofits fail to measure is program impact. While measuring revenue and expenditures is quantitative and easy to measure. Qualitative metrics related to program impact are just as important to track and measure.

I’m not aware of one nonprofits organization that doesn’t exist to make a difference in the world so the bigger questions is how do you measure and track the difference your organization is making in the world?

Most nonprofits struggle to measure impact because it is considered a “softer” metric but researchers have been using qualitative metrics for years so it is possible for nonprofits to develop qualitative program impact metrics. One nonprofit client I worked with when asked the question, “For how many months have you met or exceed program and funding goals” responded with a over 20 people offering up a massive group blank stare - over. Finally one brave person verbalized the following question, “Do we have any program goals?” The group answer was a resounding “No!”

I asked the treasurer if the organization had funding goals to which he quickly responded “ Yes!” I asked a follow up question , “Do you know where you’re at related to each of those funding goals to which he again quickly responded “Yes!’ My follow up question was “So what does that tell you about what’s important to you as an organization?” They had been running many of their programs for years without any clear goals as to what they were hoping to accomplish through each of those programs. They had no way of measure whether in fact they were having any impact as a result of their programs. In my planning framework I work with clients to develop credible qualitative metrics to quantify their impact for their funders and donors.


3. Clearly Identified Priorities with Assigned Accountabilities and Timelines

Most nonprofits struggle to identified a focused set key priorities with one person assigned to be accountable to take the lead on each of the specific priorities. Few have identified timelines for the priority to be completed or a specific action plan of how they’re going to accomplish each priority and how they’ll measure what success looks like. The planning framework I uses focus on identifying a focused set of key priorities, identifying who is accountable to ensure the priority is taken from idea to implementation along with a clear action plan to take the organization from where they are now related to each priority to where they want to be along with clear metrics of what success looks like.


4. Ensuring the Organization has there right Team and the right people in every key position in the organization

Nonprofits struggle to get the best people on their team. That’s due in part because they can’t pay as well as the private sector. That doesn’t mean that they should settle for less than the best. People who choose to work for nonprofit organization most often do so because they share the core values and the vision of the organization. Oftentimes, Nonprofits are stuck with good people who do not possess the skills required fore the job they’ve been hired to do. As a result the entire organization suffers. Many nonprofits struggle to make the difficult HR decisions and remove those team members who do not possess the skill set for the job they’ve been hired to perform. They’re well intentioned in the reticence to make the tough call but in the long run they do the organization and the employee a disservice in their failure to act. As Dr. Henry Cloud so aptly puts it, the decision needs to be made not because the employee is a bad person but because the “chair” they occupy in the organization requires someone with a different skill set. As an external coach the framework I use with my clients has helped me have the important “people” conversations with many Nonprofit Executive Directors/CEOS as well as board of directors, because sometimes the person who isn’t the fit is the individual at the top of the org chart.

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