Mid-Year Check-in: Is Your Nonprofit Making Progress Toward its Goals?

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We’re halfway through 2021 — how in the world is it already almost July?! With summer in full swing, you might be at the midpoint of your fiscal year or about to enter a new one. Either way, it means it’s time to check in with yourself and take stock of your organization’s progress toward its goals. 

Walking into this year, we wrote a post about the Four New Year’s Resolutions Nonprofit Innovators should make. We recommended you:

  • Adopt a proactive but agile approach to nonprofit planning
  • Center social justice
  • Formalize stakeholder engagement at your nonprofit
  • Practice (transparent) measurement practices

As you’re taking a look at the progress you’ve made and reflecting on areas of opportunity at your nonprofit, we’ll use this post to share some of the trends and successes we’re seeing in each of these areas so far this year.

Agile Nonprofit Strategic Planning

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that three and five year plans are ripe for disruption. Interestingly, many of the nonprofits we’ve talked to or worked with either put their existing strategic plan aside last year to handle the challenges posed by the pandemic, or they created bridge plans that specifically addressed how they would navigate through. 

As we reach this mid-year checkpoint, most of these same organizations are now looking to start anew. Either their pre-COVID plans no longer seem relevant, or after such a tumultuous time, a fresh start feels in order. 

So what can we learn from this as we think about strategic planning moving forward? Don’t start thinking that three or five year plans aren’t valuable, because it is important for everyone at your nonprofit to have a sense of greater purpose and vision for the future. However, once long-term priorities are in place, activities to support them should be developed over much shorter time frames to provide your nonprofit the flexibility to re-evaluate on a quarterly and annual basis.

Once long-term priorities are in place, activities to support them should be developed over much shorter time frames to provide your nonprofit the flexibility to re-evaluate on a quarterly and annual basis. Click To Tweet

Center Social Justice

The last year of unrest has brought into even sharper focus the fact that racism is the root cause of so many of our country’s biggest challenges. In 2020, and now 2021, nonprofits are doubling down on their commitments to supporting and advancing racial equity within their organizations, work and communities. 

We’re seeing conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion taking place at every level, but, frankly, it’s way past time to move beyond conversations. Organizations need to adopt an equity lens across everything they do and many need to take a hard look inward.They need to make difficult changes that will make their organizations more inclusive and their work stronger.

There’s also growing interest in strength-based messaging and asset-based framing. Nonprofits are recognizing the way we communicate matters and the language we use has the ability to marginalize and misidentify, but it also has the ability to support and empower.

Most importantly, there is a recognition that this work is not done, and, in fact, we have a long way to go.

Formalizing Stakeholder Engagement

Centering social justice is hard to do without including your stakeholders. We’re seeing across the social sector a renewed interest and commitment to developing strategies not for the communities we serve but with communities we serve. 

Nonprofits are bringing their stakeholders into the processes of strategic planning, vision and mission development, fundraising and program design. They’re asking them, “does this feel true to your experience?” and “is the direction you think our organization should go?” Whether it’s a staff member, a donor, a board member or a client, it’s critical that you’re getting a holistic perspective when shaping the strategies that will guide your organization for years to come. It’s about co-creating the change we want to see in the world.

Practice (transparent) measurement practices

Just as nonprofits are becoming more agile in their planning, they’re also becoming more agile in their measurement practices. Again, recognizing how quickly the world around us can change, we’re seeing more and more nonprofits adopt measurement practices like Objectives and Key Results or SMART goals that allow them to evaluate progress on a more ongoing basis. 

Whether you set goals at the beginning of the year, or you continued with a more flexible approach (coming off the heels of 2020, I can’t blame you), now is a good time to evaluate where you are and where you’re going as we head into the back half of 2021.

Develop Vision and Mission Statements for Your Nonprofit

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Your vision and mission are key components of your organization’s DNA.

These elements are more than just statements. Your vision and mission serve as the foundation for all of the work your organization does. They’re strategic guides for your nonprofit, and getting them right is critical.

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