Most nonprofits are organized with a lot of heart, which is to say, that many are relatively disorganized. When they are “organized” we find the issue of silos forming with communication and collaboration divides between departments or administration vs. non-administration. There can also be entire functions that are missing from an organization resulting in stagnated growth and diminished impacts. Without the right kind of organizational structure for your nonprofit, you are bound to feel overwhelmed, wear too many hats, and struggle with delegation.
The solution is the Nonprofit Blueprint™. Unlike a traditional organizational “org” chart that displays a hierarchy of who’s in charge of who, the Nonprofit Blueprint™ displays the key functions that make your organization operate, the 3-5 key things that need to be done for that function, and the name of the person who is accountable. Now, although the Blueprint™ is just a tool, it acts as a visual aid that will help you quickly communicate how your organization works to a new team member, consultant, volunteer, client, or major funder. Like any tool, it works best when you use it to facilitate a process that empowers the people in your organization.
What are the benefits of using the Nonprofit Blueprint™?
-address the core elements your nonprofit is missing
To help you get started building a blueprint for your nonprofit, I’ve created a handy template that you can edit directly.
You need to know 3 things to get the most out of this blueprint.
There are two core functions that every organization has in order to exist and some very important functions that you need if you want to function effectively and efficiently. Below is a brief summary of these functions however, be sure to learn more about each function before implementing so that you can maximize impact and efficiency on your organization.
The functions are:
- [core to every organization] Client enrollment (in for-profit businesses this would be sales and marketing)
- [core to every organization] Service delivery (you may call this your programs)
- Integration of the various functions of the organization, ensuring collaboration and navigating the natural tensions that exist between functions
- Visioning and innovation
- Oversight (this is required by law of nonprofits and is the core legal function of your board of directors)
- Resource management (finance, buildings and grounds, etc)
- Digital infrastructure (depending on the size and nature of your organization this can be a stand-alone function or accountability for integration)
The second thing to learn is about shifting to an operating paradigm of true accountability. That means that each person who’s attached to a function of your organization needs to understand that they own that seat. At the end of the day, they need to ensure the work gets done and they need to be empowered to make the final decisions on the things they are accountable for. It’s like the comic book hero saying “with great power comes great responsibility”. True accountability is two-sided. Once this is established, you can have your team reassess the things they are currently doing and either re-confirm that they are truly accountable for them or find a new owner for them using the blueprint as a guide.
You need to let it sink in that the boxes represent functions of the organization and not a person’s job description or title. Start out by building your boxes without putting any specific person’s name in them. Watch out for the trap of naming a box the title of a position. Always label the boxes with something that describes the key functions.
Once you do start assigning people’s names to boxes, that is the time to start thinking about someone’s job. You may have one person assigned to only one box, and that’s their job, but more likely than not, you will have people who have their names in multiple boxes. Plan this strategically so you can build a job that makes sense in terms of people’s skill sets and superpowers. And don’t be fooled by industry standard job titles like “Chief Operating Officer” or “Finance Director” or even “Executive Director”. These titles may appear on your business cards but they don’t exist on the blueprint and they will not help you gain any of its benefits.
Also, when it does come time to put names in boxes, although a single person can have their name in multiple boxes, you can only have one name per box. Why? Because when two people try to own a single function, you undermine the power of true accountability. There are two pseudo-exceptions… First, if your organization has a role like direct care worker, program director, or, teacher, where there are multiple seats with the same accountability, but each serves a different group of clients, then you may simplify your blueprint by making a single accountability box that defines the function and key accountabilities as they are the same across groups. You can choose to list names in here if there are only a few or you can leave the names off entirely. You can find an example in the template I made for you. Second, if you create a function that is so big that one person can’t do it on their own, then it’s time to break that box into sub-functions or re-distribute some of the accountability so that one person can take accountability for that full function.
So what do you need to do next?
Download the template and start building your own blueprint with our Nonprofit Blueprint™. Work through it with your team, share it with your entire organization, and revisit it regularly to keep it relevant. This is a living document, it won’t be perfect the first time. You’ll probably find that you’ve made it way over-complicated at some point and need to re-simplify it. At that point return to the template I’ve made for you and brainstorm how you can simplify.