9th February, 2018

7 questions to determine if your non-profit is best placed to deliver a project or service

The current funding climate has left many non-profit organisations desperately searching to replace income that has been decimated through public sector cuts, and forced them to look to ever-decreasing funding pots.  This can lead to a vast and complex portfolio of projects delivered at rock bottom prices, often with a very tenuous link to the mission, and a culture of constant plate spinning that risks staff burnout. 

So how do you decide if that contract or grant is worth pursuing? This blog, the second in a three-part series on prioritising for non-profits, looks at how you can make better decisions about the projects and services you develop, based on those that you are best placed to deliver.

Answering the following questions will help you to determine if you should develop a project or service:

  1. Is it purpose driven? As we covered in our last blog on focusing resources, projects and services must be truly in line with your mission or purpose. One of the best ways to do this is by using a Mission/Money Matrix to determine which projects or services contribute most to your purpose (mission) and money (profit or sustainability). You’ll want to focus your resources on the projects that score highly on one or both scales.
  2. Is it sustainable? Many grant-makers will look for a plan of how your project or service will be sustainable beyond their initial funding. Ongoing funding can be difficult to generate, as many funders like to fund something new. Therefore, you should think about whether your project can really be self-sustaining in the long term through earned income or other funding sources.
  3. Does it fill gaps or is there a risk of duplication? Your organisation should look to develop projects and services that no one else is doing in your area. Although your offering doesn’t have to be totally unique – there are plenty of examples of great practice that can be scaled up or rolled out within a different area or beneficiary group – it should fill the gaps, and not duplicate existing provision.
  4. Could you collaborate? Ask yourself, would beneficiaries be better served if you delivered your service in partnership with another organisation? Other charities or social enterprises may have stronger connections with your beneficiary group or community, or have a methodology that could work better. The concept of collaboration is not new, but recently gained the royal seal of approval – Prince William supports this approach and urges charities to collaborate more, and for those starting a new charity that they consider if they could work with an existing organisation rather than starting afresh.
  5. Is it what you do best? Does this project draw on the key areas of expertise within your organisation that are distinctive and critical to achieving your mission? These are the core competencies that will give your organisation the advantage over others that may be applying for the same funding pot or contract.
  6. Does it meet a real need? This is about ensuring you know the problems that exist within your beneficiary group, and crucially, that this project effectively responds to those problems. Some beneficiary consultation is required as part of a needs analysis, which I covered in an earlier blog, and will prove to be essential evidence within most funding applications.
  7. Have you got the systems to effectively monitor the difference made? Good systems to measure impact are needed for funder reports. It is also important to analyse the data to support your organisational learning about what works, so that you can adapt and develop your service to focus resources where they will make the biggest difference.  More on that next time …

If you need help determining which projects and services your non-profit should pursue get in touch today.

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