A Decision Grid for Nonprofit Leaders

We all wrestle with minute, daily decisions, but sometimes nonprofit leaders spend month's worth of time and energy coming to a conclusion when a decision requires the full weight of our prayer, conversation, and time to process. 

The question to ask is if the decision you need to make actually needs as much wrestling and time as you’re giving it? We’ve seen some of our clients wrestle for months on decisions that should be made in a matter of days or weeks, just like this nonprofit leader.

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One of our clients was struggling with the decision to hire a part-time major donor officer.  Yes, an important decision.  We helped the VP understand that the total cost of the investment in the person was a small fraction of his overall development budget.  When he saw that the size of his decision was a few percentage points of his budget, he could rest more assured that this decision was NOT one of the largest he had to make that budget season.  He moved on, press-ahead, made the hire, and the person has held a long and productive tenure with the organization.

A Framework for Decision Making

Ask yourself these 3 questions in the context of decision-making:

  1. What’s the financial “size” of this decision?

A decision that requires ½ of 1 percent of the budget should be made quickly, like the story above.  Make the decision, move forward, and press ahead.

  1. What are the long-term implications?  

If you’re wrangling with something that could change the future of the organization over a decade, it's best to get many voices to weigh in on the pros and cons. However, if the results of the decision won’t make much difference in a year, give it a try and don’t sweat it. Move on, press ahead, and get some traction. If it doesn’t work or is less effective than you had hoped, you’re free to move in a different direction.

  1. Is it reversible?  

Sometimes a decision we make will be very difficult to reverse once the direction is set and implementation plans are put in place.  For example, we don’t want to change database programs every year or change the entire direction of our organization frequently.  The less reversible a situation, the more time it will likely take to decide.

However, if we take a moment to place the decision in a grid and realize that if the conclusion isn’t what we hoped for in a year, the decision can be reversed with minimal financial or human cost to the reversal.

 

What decisions are you wrestling with now?

Is our Major Donor Program all it could be?

How do we reach our yearly goal without an event?

Should we host a donor weekend?

How do we acquire new donors without buying lists?

How do we know who to ask for our next major gift?

Are there untapped assets in our donor file?

 

If you have any doubts about these answers, we can equip you with solutions that not only raise funds for your non-profit but also serve your mission. Learn why over 400 other organizations have decided to work with Elevation Growth Partners.