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Frequently Asked Questions
Before The Ask... What Organizations Need To Know
The Art of The Ask - How, What, When, and Why to Ask for SupportIn the nonprofit world, securing funds to deliver services is a constant. Constant in that nonprofits are seldom selling things, but selling the need for their services and programs to serve specific communities. These programs and services require personnel, sites, and identified outcomes and community impact for delivery. As nonprofits question how to maintain and expand their funding, they must ask tough questions regarding their service delivery. Some of these questions include: Whom do we serve? Why are our programs and services needed? Are we meeting the needs of our service population? Does our building provide appropriate space for our programs? Is our site(s) located to maximize accessibility? Are we financially stable? Do we have a workforce pool to support expansion? There are many components to each of the questions that must be understood and addressed.
Who Do We Serve?Nonprofits seldom only serve one specific population. Youth-serving organizations have a primary service population of youth and may identify certain age groups. Secondary service populations would include: The families of the youth The employers of the families The schools The community in general through employment opportunities and safety for the youth The neighborhoods So, while the organization has a specific mission to serve youth, the impact is far-reaching. Another piece of understanding the service populations is ensuring staff and leadership reflect the community they serve. If a community has a large non-English or bi-lingual population, it is difficult to attract and serve clients without a targeted approach for outreach and service delivery.
Why Are Our Services Needed?Without knowing why you are serving a specific population and their specific, and changing needs, a nonprofit can become irrelevant and virtually invite others to replace them. Nonprofit organizations should constantly evaluate their current programs and services for their continued relevance to the needs of the populations they serve. Annually conducting focus groups for community needs would assist in determining any needed shifts in programs and services. The Pandemic certainly called for creativity in service delivery for many. Did Senior Centers adjust to meeting the social needs of their clients when they could not attend? Some thoughts on what shift could have been made include the establishment of a phone tree where members could connect with each other on a regular basis and changes in types of services to expand meal delivery or nursing check-ins. Virtual meetings would provide opportunities to educate seniors on available services to help them stay safe. Every board and staff member should know the impact on the community of the programs and services offered. Are we meeting the needs of our service population? Every nonprofit operates on the assumption that they are meeting the needs of their clients, but seldom question if the programs and services are reaching or meeting the needs of those who may need them most. Organizations need to have an understanding of the community, changes in demographics, workforce changes, and cultural differences that can impact program and service delivery. Are our services and programs offered filling gaps not accommodated elsewhere in the community and providing support for other services? Providing primary and secondary client surveys, and discussing needs with community leaders will allow the organization to shift programs and services to better meet the needs of its clients. Tracking impact is essential in every nonprofit. Organizations should have systems in place to constantly track those metrics necessary to prove their need in a community. What percentage of the population are you serving? How many clients are healthier, more successful in school, or maintain employment? How many access your programs on a daily, weekly or annual basis? Every service population has specific needs that continually change. Nonprofits should evaluate their service sites for accessibility and appropriate spaces necessary for service delivery. Years ago, youth programs were primarily recreation centers. Today, most youth programs provide assistance with school achievement, technology, career support and even performing arts. Their buildings may no longer have the spaces or equipment needed to provide for changed programs.
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