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Is your Nonprofit World Class?

Does your nonprofit have what it takes to change the world for the better? Find out with this short, 15-question survey.

For each question, give yourself points as follows:

  • 5 points: I agree strongly with this statement
  • 4 points: I agree somewhat
  • 2 points: I disagree somewhat
  • 1 point: I disagree strongly
  • 0 points: I don't know
  • -10 points: this level of performance is too hard
  • -1,000 points: nonprofits aren't businesses so this is irrelevant
  1. My organization has a clear, long term, numeric goal that is derived from the size of the problem we are attempting to solve, and we’ve broken up the journey into 3-, 5-, and 10-year milestones.
  2. We have a clear, concise, compelling business plan that details our solution, goals, strategies, metrics, milestones, financial strategy, team, and financial projection in approximately 10 pages.
  3. We regularly measure organization wide-morale and staff engagement and take immediate steps to address any shortfalls.
  4. At least 5 of our board members have access to $1m+ in philanthropic and/or investment capital and are actively engaged in soliciting contributions and investments with joy and enthusiasm, as they feel this organization is their #1 priority for time, talent and resources. And at least 5 of our trustees have significant C-level experience with organizations above $100m/yr.
  5. We have a comprehensive, itemized 3-5 year financial projection, one we share with proactively with partners and funders to demonstrate our transparency and accountability.
  6. Our CEO has lead and sustained at least 15-20% annual growth for at least one other company besides ours.
  7. We measure the cost-per-dollar (CPD) of our fundraising work and spend approximately $0.15 per dollar raised if our revenue generation effort is mature; we recognize that CPDs of >$0.50 is necessary initially to drive revenue growth.
  8. We use our events to cultivate and thank our supporters; they are not designed to be significant sources of revenue.
  9. At least 85% of our financial supporters donate again every year because we invest adequate resources to maintain relationships with them.
  10. We make significant investments in marketing and communication each year, relying on metrics, focus groups, a/b testing and other best practices to continuously improve our engagement with our audience segments.
  11. We attract and retain world-class talent with pay and benefits at or above market rates.
  12. We understand the best ways to generate sustained revenue growth from individuals, corporations, foundations, earned income, and impact capital.
  13. Every month, we monitor our performance with an executive dashboard containing no more than 3-5 aggregate Key Performance Indicators each for program scale; program quality; finance; and revenue. We measure lead as well as lag indicators.
  14. We measure the number of face to face contacts we make with current and prospective major financial supporters and carefully track the net present value of all proposals in our pipeline.
  15. We have completed full examination of the government and corporate activity in our space and are actively pursuing synergistic partnerships with both companies and agencies that do work related to ours.

Scoring Key

65-75 points: You are one of the highest performing nonprofits in the world—the top 1 percent. It’s very likely you are a major research university or sophisticated cultural or scientific institution. There’s no confusion anywhere in your organization between your tax status and your business model. As a result, you maximize the good you deliver to the world. Thank you for being you.

50-64 points: Very good job—your performance places you are among the top 3-5% of nonprofits worldwide. It’s likely you are posting strong results, but somewhere you’ve got an unresolved pain point or an “unknown unknown” that’s holding back your growth and impact.

35-49 points: Don’t worry-- you are still among the top 75% in nonprofit performance, and it’s quite probable that, while your business performance isn’t stellar, you have a terrific program and great people. But realize that, at best, you are achieving about half of your organization’s potential to do good in the world. It’s likely your revenue and/or impact measures year-to-year are mostly flat, and you have significant pain points in important places like staffing, operations, governance or strategy. Your homework: read Good to Great, Great by Choice, and The Four Disciplines of Execution; write a business plan; reboot your revenue strategy and staffing; build a dashboard; and then execute with focus and discipline.

<35 points: About 75% of all nonprofits fall in this range, so you are not alone. It’s highly likely that you are suffering from pain points in many aspects of your organization, from annual growth to program evaluation to governance. As a result, you are achieving only a fraction of the good you could be delivering to the world. But there's good news: you have tremendous opportunity to transform your organization and dramatically increase your impact. But it will involve shifting your mindset. Start by reflecting on this basic truth: the tools of business leadership and finance capitalism are not immoral. They are amoral. Learn them and use their power to generate good. Without them, it’s next to impossible to change the world for the better.

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