The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Creating Your Nonprofit’s Future: Why Strategic Planning May Be the Most Important Thing Nonprofit Executive Directors Can Do

If you’re the leader of a nonprofit organization, you no doubt face a constant barrage of demands and opportunities. And the more successful your organization becomes, the more demands you need to field. Your clients want you to provide more or different services; other groups ask you to partner with them; staff members suggest new program ideas and priorities. You are flooded with invitations to participate on committees, respond to RFPs (requests for proposals), and speak at conferences. You also have your own ideas for opportunities to create and seek out. Although this is a good problem to have, you can’t do it all—and it can be challenging to consider all the options. How do you decide which opportunities deserve the valuable time of your staff, board, and volunteers?


Why We Need to Stop Asking “What Do You Do?”

A while ago, while I was seeking input for a post on how we can all be more disability-inclusive, a colleague mentioned that we should drop the get-to-know-you question “What do you do?” because people with disabilities face significant employment discrimination, and this question is often a painful reminder of that. Another colleague of mine who is brilliant and talented and hilarious and wheelchair-enabled told me she spent seven years searching before someone hired her. I can imagine all the times during those seven years when people asked her “What do you do?” and how she must have felt. This has made me think of the “to-do” culture that we have and how it’s been affecting our work.


How to Build (and Follow!) a Fundraising Roadmap


I came of age when getting a driver’s license came with a congratulatory book of road maps.  I was an early adopter of the GPS mounted to my dashboard and now rarely leave my house without programing my destination into an app on my phone.  I was the guy at Disney World this summer walking around with the map in my hand with my pre-determined routes sketched out. I like to know where I’m going, and my dependence on maps and technology ensures I always get there.  To accomplish the goal of fully funding their important missions, nonprofit leaders need to take this same care in setting a course and following it.


Opening a Window on Your Nonprofit’s Performance

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As a conscientious leader of your organization (board member or senior staff), you put a lot of thought and effort into developing your strategic plan. Ideally, the planning process resulted in quantifiable goals that will be tracked over the course of the year to measure progress on the plan. Peter Drucker’s quote, “What gets measured gets improved,” is as valid today as when he first said it. But the challenge is how best to track and report on progress, because you’re engaging busy volunteers who are probably only working on portions of the plan, and then only sporadically. Because many people are visually oriented, charts and graphs are natural ways to report measurement. That’s why many organizations regularly produce dashboards as their windows on performance.