Nonprofit sequencing is a term used to describe the process for developing a successful nonprofit organization. Sequencing speaks to the order in which specific elements of the organization should be developed.
Nonprofit sequencing helps the community leader understand the purpose and function of a nonprofit organization and what needs to be in place prior to receiving funding. Emphasis is placed on ‘eligibility for receiving funding’ because this is the number one concern listed by community leaders in community assessments, focus groups, surveys and round tables. Emphasis is also placed on funding because “if organizations are not able to keep their doors open to provide services to the community or pay staff to deliver programs and services, then everything else becomes irrelevant”.
A strong organization is one that makes a long-term impact in the community. Long term suggests the ability to run the organization in such a way that it becomes the mainstay of the community.
One very useful tool in the development of a successful nonprofit organization is a document called the Dashboard. A dashboard on a vehicle provides the owner with valuable information about the condition of the vehicle. Similarly, a dashboard for a nonprofit will do the same.
The dashboard is a great tool for the entire organization. It is an at-a-glance look at the most important elements of the organization. It visually illustrates the pulse of the inner and outer workings of the business.
• How much fuel is in the tank? Speaks to organizational finances
• What speed the car is going? What is the rate of growth of the organization
• RPMS, the car’s horsepower? The organization’s ability to draw supporters, or influence change in the community
• Navigation System – Strategy, forecasting (future)
• Engine/Oil/Brakes – Indicates the stability of the organization’s infrastructure
• No brakes – A collision waiting to happen
• No oil – Blocked engine; no organizational movement
It is a perfect tool for creating a solid nonprofit organization. For organizations just starting out, it serves as a guide in creating a fully fundable organization. For organizations in the midst of development or even seasoned organizations with a long history, the dashboard can help community leaders get their organizations on course, and stay the course powerfully.
The basic elements needed to start a nonprofit organization
Elements needed to run the nonprofit like a for profit business
Programs & Services that make an impact in your community
Infrastructure design elements that ensure longevity
Operation practices that increases the sustainability of a nonprofit organization
Diversifying your funding stream to ensure the longevity of the organization
The Dashboard is an organization’s roadmap for success. Use this tool as a resource to help support the organization, just like the dashboard is used for vehicles.
The more items an organization has in each column moving to the right, the higher ranked the organization would be with a Funder. The goal is to have all of these items in place.
Is that reality? Maybe not right away. But that is the goal! For with each of these items, not only does the organization’s value in terms of funding increase, but value in terms of the organization running more effectively and efficiently. With more of these items in place, it’s safe to say the more tools and resources community leaders have to help them become more successful.
Most organizations start at Column 3. Someone decides to start a nonprofit, so they file the papers and figure out the foundational stuff (Columns 1 and 2) later, when it’s required, usually for a grant. This is typical, and causes a lot of back-tracking to get all of the elements in place. But it usually gets figured out.
The Dashboard has been designed to help community leaders understand the process and complete each section in order. The goal is to have all of these elements in place as soon as possible – and definitely before you approach a grant writer or a funder.
Rows 4 & 5 reflect advanced organizations, and are what every nonprofit should strive to have.
How to use the Dashboard
The Dashboard is to be used as a living tool. Meaning, it should be reviewed at every staff meeting: weekly, monthly, etc. Ideally the Executive Director, along with Administrators (Program Directors, Program Managers, Accountant, etc) will design the Dashboard. But every staff member should be provided with a copy and regular updates.
In order for it to be used At-A-Glance as intended, there is a color chart and legend assigned to help give leaders a quick view of what’s going on. A RED box would indicate that this issue is either not being addressed or a poor job has been done on accomplishing the goals associated with the issue. A GREEN box would indicate that this issue has been successfully accomplished or is doing well. A YELLOW box would indicate that this issue has been handled at a mediocre level and could use improvement, or needs to be considered next as an item of importance. If the box is left WHITE, it means that it is an element that needs to be considered in the future, and is on the dashboard because it is important (e.g., registration). For simplicity, these are the only colors to be used on the Dashboard. Leaders can quickly look at the document and have meaningful conversations regarding the issues that need to be addressed given the color of each issue and the goal of the meeting.
Unlike a 25-page business plan, or a 5-page report, the one page Dashboard is an effective and efficient tool that can assist community leaders with getting and keeping their organizations on point for successful business development.