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Celebration of Best Practices in Nonprofit Management

Around fifty organizations in the DC area applied for The Washington Post 2014 Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management. They each completed a rigorous application, from which 10 semifinalists were selected. Three finalists were chosen for site visits and to appear on stage yesterday, as The Post and the Center for Nonprofit Advancement hosted their 20th annual celebration of best practices in nonprofit management.

The Center for Nonprofit Advancement introduced each of the three finalists on their blog in advance of the best practices celebration, and you can read more about each of them there: The Reading Connection, Transitional Housing Corporation, and Young Playwrights' Theater.

Some of the key points from yesterday's presentation that most resonated with me:

  • For organizations with deep roots in the community, home-grown, passionate leadership is probably the best fit. Importing someone who is experienced, but doesn't know and understand the community, is less likely to succeed.
  • Invest in the infrastructure that will be needed for pursuing the programs you design. The tendency is to do the opposite, letting program decisions be determined by funding.
  • Involve all the stakeholders in planning, including the staffers who will ultimately be implementing it. If they aren't on board with the idea, then morale is sure to suffer.
  • A "strategic plan" doesn't have to be dry. Show it on a map, make a chart, or do some other exciting thing to create and keep enthusiasm around pursuing it.
  • Be open to change, while staying true to your mission / plan / goals.
  • As for fundraising, consider requiring board members to "give AND get." In other words, donate some of their own money, and also raise money from other people and help to identify new donors. As for HOW each board member should that -- let them be creative!
  • On partnerships -- agreements should be spelled out formally, including expectations from both sides, definite start and end dates, and provisions for renewal. This protects everyone, and makes it simpler to dissolve a partnership if either side isn't feeling the expected benefit.

The award was bestowed on Young Playwrights' Theater, and you can read the announcement on the Center for Nonprofit Advancement's blog.