Nonprofit Operations Planning - dummies

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

The term operations typically refers to how nonprofit companies carry out their business; that is, how they handle day-to-day activities and how they produce products and provide services efficiently and cost-effectively in order to maximize profits.

To nonprofit organizations, efficient operations are very important. In your world, efficiency means that your organization does more with less. It means that you leverage maximum value out of every donor dollar by spending as little as possible to deliver quality services and support for your causes. And that means you end up reaching more people, doing more good, and, as a bonus, having an easier time raising future funds.

See that your business plan includes a discussion of how you’ll address the following four areas that comprise your operations:

  • Location: As an example, an organization providing food to homeless people needs a location close to homeless shelters and social services.

  • Equipment: For example, if you plan to enhance online donor communications, you may need to acquire computers, a server, modems, software, and other equipment.

  • Labor: No matter what your mission, you need a plan for recruiting and training paid staff and volunteers.

  • Process: You need to describe how you’ll operate your organization. A food bank, for example, needs a process for gathering food contributions, sorting them in a central location, and delivering them to those in need.

As a nonprofit, your operations are important for another reason, too: Your organization will likely apply for grants, and grant applications require a detailed description of operational procedures in order to assess your ability to serve your constituents, recruit and keep necessary staff, and do your good work efficiently and effectively.

Successfully managing these areas allows you to achieve a positive return on the grant dollars being invested in your organization. The good news is that you can probably cut and paste directly from your business plan — or at least borrow from the main points.