Josh Rickel

How to Streamline Processes in Your Nonprofit

by Josh Rickel, Partner, Notley

All successful organizations, regardless of size, industry, for-profit or nonprofit, do a few fundamental things really well: they communicate effectively, they share information that provides context for what needs to get done, they align on objectives and organizational goals, and they provide clarity on how decisions are made.

In a small organization, this can be fairly simple because you are likely in constant communication with your team, readily sharing information as it comes in and deciding what needs to get done together. But this becomes extremely difficult to maintain as an organization grows or you no longer work side-by-side in an office. 

In each of these areas, organizations should implement processes and tools that help them to achieve their end goal. There is no shortage of technology that is out there claiming they solve for these fundamental organizational skills.  As you look to streamline processes within your organization, begin with the following:

1. Identify your gaps.

In order for an organization to run smoothly, there needs to be harmonious alignment of the following: communication, institutional knowledge, goal setting and decision making. Identify which areas should take priority based on your current needs, and which will have the biggest impact if you invest in it now.

2. Don’t go overboard.

You should assess how well your organization is currently operating, and where there are areas for improvement. For example, if your organization already does a good job onboarding new team members and making them feel welcome, you shouldn’t invest in a fancy new HR tool just for the sake of it

3. Establish clear measurements and expected outcomes.

Whenever you make an investment in a new tool or process, you should first establish a framework for knowing whether or not it is working. Understand the desired outcome you’re looking for, and how you’ll know if that outcome has been achieved. This is crucial to ensure you don’t waste too much time or money on a tool that ultimately isn’t a good fit.

4. Avoid adding too much complexity.

Whatever process or tool you implement, it will never help you scale if it is too hard to use or creates too much friction. Adoption across your team will be key for you to maximize the investment in the new process or system, and don’t be afraid to abandon it if it truly isn’t a good fit for your organization.

5. Don’t be afraid to spend time or money if success pays back quickly. 

A simple cost-benefit analysis of a new system or process will give you the comfort to spend time or money. If you are investing money into something that helps fundraising and it feels expensive, ask yourself how quickly it will pay for itself if it works. Often it only takes one or two successful efforts from your team to cover the costs of a new technology. Your team's time is also part of the cost-benefit analysis. If a new system or process saves your team hours or even days of effort, think about the value of putting that time into other parts of the organization.

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