Small Non-Profits – Is a Balanced Scorecard Overkill?

It’s probably true that all organizations – big and tiny – go through what they consider a strategic review on a periodic basis. The process for this may be tight, it may be loose, but generally the people involved come away feeling that the organization is doing what it needs to be doing to meet its mission.

However, when it gets to the next step – execution – things get a little dicier. Beyond launching projects, there is often not a concise indication of what “success” looks like. That is, nobody is easily able to say, “oh, if we increase revenue or funding by such and such, that’s our goal,” or, “bringing on x% of young adults is what we’re looking for to be successful.” When the projects are done – if the projects are done – will it be evident how they contributed to the strategy?

What does good look like?

What does good look like?

Depending on the organization, its size and expertise and source of money, this may be okay. Volunteerism plays a huge part in Boards making significant contributions to a community. However, even here, I’d suggest that a balanced scorecard is useful for each and every organization. It actually makes things clearer and “feel better” for everyone.

Now, coming up with the first version can be a bit sticky. What’s really required, though, is just for someone to encourage everyone to stick to the basics – to common sense. Ask something really basic, such as, “what are we doing this year?” and see what the first person to talk says. Chances are, without realizing it, they’ll provide the overall objective and, as a byproduct, the metric for the scorecard. Write that down. Then ask somebody else. Write that down. After a few goes at this, people will have something to look at and fuss with. Voila. It isn’t cast in stone so don’t worry about how good it is. That’ll take care of itself over time.

The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard are: financial, customer, internal business process, and learning & growth. It’s good to have at least one per perspective, but if you don’t, don’t sweat it. Just start.

As a bonus, when the executive committee is wondering how to do performance reviews of the Executive Director (or whomever is the lead person in the organization), they can use the objectives from the scorecard, and perhaps also the metric and the target, as the foundation for the assessment. Even more, if they’re inclined to provide some kind of “bonus” for pay-for-performance purposes at the end of the year, they can make it clear to both sides – and the membership – at the start of the year, why the person may (or may not) deserve a little extra cash rather than just doling it out.

So, don’t be put off. Have a fifteen minute conversation to produce your first scorecard. Use it and improve it from there.

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