Quite often, you will hear conversations about nonprofits and ministries and “best practices.” You may even wonder, “do we have best practices,” “are we using best practices?” An overview of best practices will help you to understand exactly what best practices are and where they come from.
Begin by knowing there is not a single best practice that encompasses every nonprofit or ministry. There are standards that reach across every organization in how they should operate, the things they should do and not do, etc. Here, we are referring to the idea that best practices have been integrated into the delivery and implementation of programs and services within the organization. Additionally, there are best practices in nonprofit operations; these begin with the board of directors, continue into the work of the Executive Director, the finance officer/manager and on into the staff.
The logical question is where can best practices be found? There are best practices in everything—feeding programs, mentoring programs, educational programs, etc. These can be found through a simple google search. However, when searching you need to take a few things into account:
- Is the population served similar to the population your organization serves?
- Is the community where the program or service has been implemented similar to your community? (rural, urban, suburban, etc)
- Does the community have similar resources as yours?
- Are you willing and able to implement the program or service in the same way as it was done in the other location? (If not, you may ruin the efficacy and validity of any best practice results).
When doing your search, you will often find best practice include ideas about how to staff programs and services, what investments are needed, etc. And, above all, you can find out if the great program idea that you have has worked somewhere else. In other words, there is no sense in re-inventing the wheel. If someone else has laid the path in front of you, then you can use theirs instead of forging your own.
Obviously, every organization and community has its unique characteristics. These need to be taken into account as well. Additionally, most best practice models will provide insight into how to measure the effectiveness of the program or service. This information will help you answer the question, “how are we making a difference in the lives of those we serve?”
Should your organization be using best practices? The short and long answer are both YES!
You may need to figure out the best strategy to implement best practices but you want to be able to document that your program or service is making a difference in the lives of those you serve. And, bottom line, faith-based organizations need to be using recognized best practices in everything they do, since they are representing Christ.
Members of the Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center will have access to Best Practice Checklists during the month of March. Click here for more information about how you can become a member and access all of the resources we have available.