Thursday, March 01, 2007

Evaluating Non-Profits

The Mayor had some good advice for local non-profits at last Monday's council meeting. Now is the time for a good honest look at the 400 some organizations in the city and what efficiencies can be generated.

Chris at Schnurr's Sound Off has blogged about this several times. I'd like to draw people's attention to one resource that Chris has identified - the Donner Canadian Foundation Awards.

Councillor Gignac's motion directing administration to carry out a study to put a dollar value on the services provided by local organizations fits perfectly with the Donner Non-Profit Performance Evaluation. By participating in the contest, organizations are provided with a free performance evaluation, assessing an organizations performance relative to their peers.

The Donner Awards application covers ten different performance areas:

1. Financial Management. Considers year-over-year financial management, cost containment, program spending and financial reporting.

2. Income Independence. Considers the level of diversification in an organization’s revenues.

3. Strategic Management. Considers the process through which resources are directed towards a common goal or objective.

4. Board Governance. Considers the independence, accountability, and effectiveness of board governance.

5. Volunteers. Considers the number of volunteers, their recruitment, management and development.

6. Staff. Considers the level of programming provided by staff, their recruitment, management and development.

7. Innovation. Considers the uniqueness of programs, how organizations innovate in response to change, and the use of new technology in program delivery.

8. Program Cost. Considers the per-hour cost of providing a program or service.

9. Outcome Monitoring. Considers the extent to which organizations assess their own performance in terms of achieving specific goals in their programs.

10.Accessibility. Considers the extent to which organizations assess need in making scarce resource allocation decisions.

You can view a sample Performance Report here. (.pdf )

If Windsor truly wants to begin leading the country, this is an excellent place to start.

If every non-profit in the city completed this assessment, not only would they qualify for the various Donner awards but we would then have a common base to begin a serious evaluation of our local efforts.

You want positive press for Windsor?

What kind of story do you think could be generated by every non-profit in the city participating in an effort to improve themselves and the services they provide?

Last year's Donner Awards attracted 600 applications from across the country. Windsor could almost double this amount in one year and vault itself into national prominence as a forward thinking city.

Participation in a program such as this would most likely have identified problems at local organizations like the Science Centre and Capitol Theatre long before they reached crisis status.

Strengths and weaknesses across various sectors can be identified. While funds may be the immediate problem for many, it is not necessarily the root cause of some organization's problems. Non-profits strong in governance may be able to offer assistance and mentoring to others that are struggling in this regard. Innovation leaders may be able to inspire others with their unique approach.

The Donner Foundation Award program is based on sound management principles and Windsor could only benefit by it's participation. Now, more than ever, Windsor needs to be agressive and proactive instead of reactive. We can't simply rely on other levels of government. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

Donner Award application Deadline: May 1st, 2007