Assessing the sustainability of your organization’s business model has two key aspects for associations and nonprofits. The first is assessing how much each of your programs and services are moving your organization’s mission forward. The second is how the program or initiative is contributing to your organization’s bottom line. Is the program profitable? Break-even? Burning through considerable resources? Mission-driven organizations often fall into the trap of considering one or the other of these two key factors rather than looking at how they intersect.
Is it moving your mission forward?
Let’s dig into the first of these. How are your programs and initiatives contributing to your organization’s mission? This moves beyond an impact program evaluation. A program evaluation looks at an individual program and tries to establish whether and how it is achieving its desired impact. The impact assessment as part of an organizational sustainability assessment looks at all your programs and evaluates them with common criteria. Thus you are able to get a comparative look across initiatives for how they are contributing to your organization’s mission.
Defining Assessment Criteria
Deciding on the criteria you will use is key. This is a useful step to widen the circle and involve key stakeholders to define what criteria you will apply. According Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman in the book Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decision for Financial Viability, there are seven benchmarks that are useful to consider in this process:
You will likely have other criteria that are important in your context. This list gives you a starting point for thinking about how to assess the mission impact of your programs and initiatives.
Download Four Things to Consider before an Organizational Sustainability Audit.
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