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Three Questions Nonprofits Should Not Ignore

by Varda Meyers Epstein  |  
June 12, 2014

One of the keys to having a successful nonprofit is to ask pointed questions about your organization and to respond with truthful answers. In so doing, your nonprofit can identify what is working and what isn't, and what tactics to use to improve and move forward.

Revealing flaws is the only way to tackle them, and the only way to reveal them in the first place is to look for them by asking the right questions. There may not necessarily be a flaw in a nonprofit's workings, but there is likely to be a better, more efficient way to use resources—or a problem in need of an inventive solution.

The main takeaway is this: It's better to see the problems and fix them than to bury your head in the sand and to fail permanently. And, of course, the only way to see the problems is to take a cold hard look by asking questions that serve as prompts.

Here are three such questions a nonprofit might ask.

1. Are we getting anywhere?

Profit and loss statements notwithstanding, it can be hard to see whether a nonprofit is realizing its aims. Let's say your nonprofit helps rescue abused pets. You may be raising a lot of money from donors, but how many pets are you actually rescuing? How much of the money you raise is going to your organization's real goals? What are your specific goals within a specific time frame? The only way to know the answers to these questions is to set it all out in writing.

Sticking to the same example: Is your goal only to rescue pets or to also find good homes for them for the long term? Do you want to provide a temporary dwelling for the pets on site, or would you rather develop a list of temporary pet foster homes? Would it be better to have volunteer veterinarians serving the animals in shifts or to have a fulltime vet on staff?

Keep track of your organization's work and revisit your game plan to see whether you're meeting your specs. If not, you may have to change your strategy or, possibly, your goals. Be realistic about your limitations, but be open to new possibilities and even to the option of moving the goalpost forward.

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Varda Meyers Epstein is the communications writer at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit car donation program that funds educational initiatives for children. She's a mother of 12 who's paid the rent for the past decade by blogging and writing Web content.

LinkedIn: Varda Epstein

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