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Field Notes

Insights From Two Years Of Assessing Nonprofit Organizational Health And Program Quality

May 15, 2015

Ever wonder how your organization (or grantees) stacks up against similar organizations in the field?

Root Cause’s organizational health and program quality assessments have helped hundreds of nonprofit leaders get smarter about how they run their organizations and how they tell their stories externally. Ultimately these assessments help leaders improve their results and raise more money.

Our 2015 Funder Report will give you insight about how your organization (or grantees) compares with others in the field on a few key metrics. It shows the overall results of the assessments we have done with 35 Peer Performance Exchange (PPE) members over the last two years. It also highlights trends in strengths and areas for improvement among this group.

Here are a few of the highlights. I encourage you to read the report to find out about more trends.

  • A strong performance measurement system includes a sound Theory of Change that describes how an organization will address an important social problem to achieve a specific and measurable intended impact. It includes realistic indicators to measure processes and results. Does your organization’s (or grantees’) performance measurement system meet the above requirements? 42% of PPE members’ systems do not meet these criteria. A performance measurement system is the lifeline of a nonprofit. It is the only way you can know (and not just feel) that you are achieving the results you want (and need) to achieve. If your system is not up to par, take a look at Root Cause’s book on performance measurement to get started. 
  • A high-quality strategic plan does not sit on the shelf, but is a living document that is a reference and guide for all staff to ensure you are on track and pursuing your strategic priorities. It should include critical elements such as industry analysis, clear programmatic and operational strategies to achieve impact, and SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound) goals to keep everyone across the organization working toward the same results. 64% of our PPE members do not have robust plans. If you’re in a similar situation, check out our book on business planning for nonprofits to see how you can get started.


In the Funder Report, you will find more information about selected organizational health and programmatic practices specific to youth career development, college access and college persistence programs. Take a look to find out where your organization is ahead of the curve, and where you may need to make some adjustments.

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