These are the questions you should be asking about your nonprofit's management - Generocity Philly


Mar. 18, 2019 11:46 am

These are the questions you should be asking about your nonprofit’s management

Positioning a nonprofit for success requires taking a strategic look at these key areas, writes Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center's interim head, Krystine Sipple.

Best practices workshop at PANO's 2017 conference.

(Photo via

This is a guest post by Krystine Sipple, Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center's interim executive director.
Nonprofits can impact their communities in real and lasting ways, but they frequently struggle to be effective.

Often — especially in small, grassroots organizations — this struggle is due to a lack of leadership skills. Executive directors are often former (or current) program staff with no real training in organizational management. Volunteer board members may be passionate about the organization’s mission but have little understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Leading and managing nonprofit organizations has become increasingly complicated, but there are resources to help guide the way. One such resource is the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), an organization which provides advocacy, collaboration and education to the nonprofit sector throughout the state.

The following series of questions will help you examine six key core management excellence areas and performance strategies, based on the PANO Standards for Excellence accreditation.

1. Mission, strategy and evaluation

  • Does your mission clearly express the purpose of your organization and the vision to reach that purpose?
  • Does the mission set short- and long-term goals for the organization’s scope of work?
  • Do your organizational activities consistently support your mission?
  • Do you regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your programming?
  • Do you have a strategic plan?

Basically, you need to be able to clearly articulate what you do and why, evaluate if what you are doing is working, and have the ability to adapt to internal and external change.

2.Leadership: Board, staff and volunteers

Fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit organization requires a combination of both leadership and management skills, and involves the leadership of both paid and unpaid people.

  • Does the executive director provide regular program and financial information and updates to the board?
  • Does the executive director provide a safe work environment, protecting clients, employees and volunteers from harm and unnecessary risk?
  • Do volunteers play a clearly defined role in the organization?
  • Are board members involved in critical roles that support the mission, such as policy oversight, leveraging resources, assuring accountability, and publicly representing the organization?
  • Is board recruitment diverse and inclusive of the community being served?
  • Does the board evaluate its own performance and that of the executive?
  • Are there succession plans on both the staff and the board levels?

3. Legal compliance and ethics

  • Does staff and board leadership oversee organization-wide transparency, accountability and ethical behavior?
  • Is there compliance with appropriate legal guidelines and regulations?
  • Are there explicit whistleblower, confidentiality and conflict of interest policies?

4. Finance and operations

Financial management of the organization should be strong, transparent and accountable.

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  • Is the annual budget clear and informed by the mission and strategic plan?
  • Does the organization build budgets with input from program staff and communicate actual budget performance to staff throughout the year?
  • Does the organization have regular audits?
  • Are the 990 and annual financial statements easily available to the public?
  • Are there appropriate internal controls in place to assure accuracy and integrity in all financial dealings, and are all staff and board members aware of those controls?

5. Resource development

It is the job of the board and the executive director to assure that sufficient funds are raised to meet the organization’s budgeted objectives each year. Even if an organization has dedicated fundraising staff, this does not absolve the leadership of those responsibilities.

  • Does the organization follow fundraising practices that promote a culture of philanthropy throughout the organization?
  • Are fundraising goals and strategies outlined each year in a written development plan?
  • Do the chief executive and all board members give an annual financial gift to the organization?
  • Does everyone in the organization participate in fundraising activities as appropriate, including cultivation of current donors and introducing new donors to the organization?

6. Public awareness, engagement and advocacy

  • Does your organization have a communications strategy, with consistent branding and use of client stories to illustrate the mission?
  • Are there policies to ensure consumer privacy and confidentiality when telling such stories?
  • Does the organization maintain a web presence that provides information about its mission, programs, finances, management and governing board?
  • Does the organization have a crisis communication plan?
  • Does the organization have good working relationships with other area nonprofits to better serve the community as a whole?

Putting it all together

By taking a strategic look at how your organization approaches each of these key areas, you can better position your nonprofit for success. Strong nonprofit leadership is both mission-driven and incorporates best practices for excellence, and when an organization values both equally, it can more effectively meet the needs of the community it serves.


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