How Good Operations Management Can Deliver the Most Value to Nonprofits

Nonprofits have various needs when it comes to day to day operations of their organizations. A good Operations Management can make a nonprofit swim where others sink. The nonprofit’s operations management needs are essential to ensure the organization operates efficiently, effectively, and in alignment with its mission and goals.

Today, I’d like to highlight some of these key Operations Management needs for nonprofits:

  • Strategic Planning: Nonprofits require effective strategic planning to set clear goals and objectives, establish action plans, and allocate resources to achieve their mission. Operations management plays a critical role in aligning the day-to-day activities with the long-term strategic vision of the organization.

    Such planning certainly requires an intimate knowledge of an organization’s Mission and Vision, but also how the organization will be staffed, among other consideration:
    • What are the intended goals of the organization?
    • Who would be accountable for each of the goals?
    • Will the majority of work by done by volunteers or employees?
    • How urgent is the need to achieve the stated mission?
    • What’s the intended timeline for achieving those goals?
  • Financial Management: Sound financial management is crucial for nonprofits to maintain financial stability, transparency, and accountability. This is certainly important for any organization, but especially for nonprofits given the oft limited budgets, especially at the onset of an organization’s founding and early days of fundraising.

    When defining how the funds should be managed, the topic should also include annual budgeting, monthly financial reporting, donor stewardship, grant management, and compliance with financial regulations.
  • Human Resources and Talent Management: Nonprofits need to attract, retain, and develop a skilled and motivated workforce whether those are paid or volunteers. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, onboarding, training, performance management, and creating a positive organizational culture.

    This topics requires careful consideration if a large portion of the work will be completed by volunteers who may have different motivation and irregular availability compared to a paid employee.
  • Fundraising and Resource Development: A nonprofit is nothing without funding, much of which is through fundraising from small donors and institutional donations. Effective operations management in this area involves donor prospecting, relationship management, fundraising campaigns, selection of the right fundraising platform, and grant writing.
  • Program and Project Management: Nonprofits often run multiple programs and projects simultaneously. Think of every public event, fundraising project, software deployment initiatives and volunteer drives that a nonprofit may be engaged in.

    Operations management ensures these initiatives are well-planned, monitored, and executed efficiently, especially with the use of templatized repeatable activities and automating the triggers, reminders and notifications, and even marketing campaigns to achieve their intended outcomes.
  • Board Governance: Strong board governance is critical to the success of a nonprofit organization. Operations management ensures effective communication with the board, preparation of board meetings logistics, and adherence to governance policies and procedures. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point about Program and Project Management since much of the activities for Board Governance fits in with the repeatable activities that require the rigor and automation that a Program Manager can bring to the table.
  • Data Management and Evaluation: Nonprofits need to collect and analyze data to measure their impact, assess program effectiveness, and make data-driven decisions. Operations management in this area means defining the criteria for what data needs to be collected, in what granularity, with what precision. Once these are understood, then Operations must find, select and implement data management systems, conducting evaluations, and using that data to drive continuous improvement as well as report overall organizational progress to the organization’s executives and board members.
  • Technology and Information Systems: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous on data management. Nonprofits require efficient and secure information systems to manage their operations effectively. Operations management includes the selection, implementation, and maintenance of appropriate technology solutions.

    These technologies are varied and can be quite extensive, such as Constituent Relationship Management (CRM), Advocacy and Grassroots Engagement, Fundraising and Donor Management, Event Management, Volunteer Management, Data Security and Privacy Management, among others. For a more comprehensive list, see our future post on What Software Should Nonprofit Political Reform Organizations Consider.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Nonprofits must adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, maintain ethical standards, and manage risks associated with their operations.

    This can’t be understated.

    Establishing an organization with your state and our federal government as a nonprofit is no easy feat. So, after all of the initial hard work, you don’t want to lose your status with either government entities since to do otherwise would mean losing much , if not all, of your funding, not to mention having to pay any fines and fees for late or lack of regular filings!

    Operations management involves developing and implementing compliance and risk management strategies, as well as defining who is responsible for regular filing, scheduling such activities and ensuring accountability for their completion.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Many nonprofits collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to achieve common goals. Often times, such relationships are established by Board Members and maintained by your Executive Director and Fundraising staff. However, operations management can ensure smooth collaboration and effective partnership development by ensuring the right systems are in place for management of all related data and communication.
  • Communication and Public Relations: This is another factor that falls into what operations can effect with the right tools selection and implementation. Effective communication is essential for nonprofits to raise awareness, engage stakeholders, and build a positive reputation. Operations management includes the selection and fine tuning of the tools to manage the communication channels and the crafting and consistent delivery of these messages.
  • Volunteer Management: Nonprofits often rely on volunteers to support their initiatives, some more than others. Operations management in this area involves recruiting, training, and recognizing the roles of volunteers, as well as providing the best tools to them to become and remain engaged without having to learn complicated systems and processes that would otherwise hinder such engagement.

As I’m sure you’re beginning to see, Operations Management and Excellence are crucial for nonprofits to achieve their mission and deliver their programs effectively. It involves quite a lot of moving pieces, all of which require careful attention to detail and long-term vision for how the organization can achieve its north star.

I suggest starting by mapping out which of the above are your top three to five needs, then looking for the person(s) in or outside of your organization to help plan for and execute effectively on each. You can read more about whether to hire a consultant, an employee, or recruit a volunteer to fill these needs, weighing in the tradeoffs of each in our upcoming posts in our future posts.

About the Author

Arash Sayadi is the Founder and Managing Director of ValTeo, LLC. He has extensive experience with developing company digital strategy, program and project management, as well as process automation solution for clients in Nonprofit Political Reform, Financial Services, Banking, Legal and Real Estate industries, among others. You can read more about him here.

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