Dani Robbins

Twelve Signs of a Well Run Organization

In Leadership, Non Profit Boards, Organizational Development on September 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

I go in and out of a lot of organizations.  There are a few things for which I’m always on the lookout and the combination of what I see contributes to the recommendations I offer regarding the organization’s capacity for growth, sustainability and greatness.

I look to see if the mission, vision and values are obvious and if everyone knows them. I look at the policies, permits, organizational documents, job descriptions, resumes, and any and all plans that exist.

Here are the other things I look for, look out for and ask to review:

1. By-laws (Code of Regulations in Ohio) that are appropriate, revised periodically and, most importantly, followed.  I look at how Officers and renewing members are selected and how new members are recruited, oriented and voted upon.  I look at terms and term limits.  I look at Committee structures and purpose, how new committee members are added and if they need to be Board members.

2.  A Board that is well respected in the community who are aware of and fulfilling their role, including setting goals and annually evaluating the Executive Director, and setting metrics by which to assess the organization’s impact. I also look at how the Board is oriented, educated, evaluated and recognized. And if it reflects the diversity of the community.

When I am invited to Board meetings, I pay attention to how much the Exec speaks, how much the other staff speak and how often members of the board speak.  I notice if there are robust discussions and if votes are taken appropriately (appropriately being defined as “as outlined in Roberts Rules of Order” for the organizations that follow that model, which most do).  I notice if all votes are unanimous and if anybody is challenging anything.  I note if the minutes from the last meeting are approved and if financial statements are presented and approved.  I notice if anyone asks questions and if they are perfunctory questions or questions that reflect an understanding of the statements or issue at hand.

Everything flows from a strong Board.

3. Mission, Vision and Values of which everyone is aware, and upholding or moving toward.  Do the programs tie to mission?  Can people recite the mission and the values?  Is there a vision?

4. A Strategic Plan that lays out the path forward. Is there one? Does it include timelines, measurements and assignments? You’ve heard me say it before but a plan that doesn’t have each of the three is really just a list.

5.  Leadership – An Exec who has the passion, judgment, skills, training and experience to lead, and is known and respected in the community.  A recent fortune cookie I received said “if you have no critics you have had no successes.”  The Exec job is hard and not everyone is going to love them, but if the Exec communicates the vision and the path, people will follow.

6. Staff who have a passion for the organization’s mission, the appropriate technical experience, skills, training, and education for your field and their role. They also have to be on the team and moving the organization forward.  It is no longer enough to only be good at your job.  To ensure we  have the right people in the right seats we need staff to be both good at their job and on the team.

7. Organizational Culture that supports and empowers and also holds people accountable.

8. Cultures of Fund Raising or Philanthropy – Which is present and is that the appropriate culture to meet the goals of the organization?

9. Systems including infrastructure, financial processes, policies, plans and procedures that reflect the organization’s values; provide boundaries, training and growth opportunities for all; and reflect best practices and appropriate standards.

 10. An Excellent Program that ties to the mission, meets its goals, measures impact and moves the needle for change in the community. None of the above will matter if the program is mediocre.  The program or service provided must be excellent.

11. A facility that inspires hope, rather than exhaustion. We have all been in organizations that make us tired the minute we walk in the door.  It’s hard to be inspired or inspire others when surrounded by 2nd hand furniture that doesn’t match, stacked boxes, tons of papers and dingy walls.

12. Technology that supports (and doesn’t hinder) the work of the organization. At a minimum, there should be financial software; separate donor software if you receive contributed income; current (less than 3 year old) computers that have appropriate software and virus protection; an informative website and a reasonable email and phone system.  There should also be relevant policies on the use of technology and social media.

Did I leave anything out?  What do you use to gauge the quality, capacity and sustainability of an organization?  As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience.  If you have other ideas or suggestions for blog topics, please share. A rising tide raises all boats.

  1. […] See on Scoop.it – Core ValuesI look to see if the mission, vision and values are obvious and if everyone knows them. I look at the policies, permits, organizational documents, job descriptions, resumes, and any and all plans that exist.See on nonprofitevolution.wordpress.com […]


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