Beyond these basics, there are various indicators on how well an organization is doing its job and fulfilling its core mission. One important question I advise my clients to ask is, how much work does the Board of directors do to ensure the financial success of the organization? Ask yourself what is the Board’s role and history of success? This is when you get down to the core of progress, impact and ability to fulfill important organizational mission. But most importantly this is one of the primary methods to protect your investments and monitor the evolving priorities of the organization.
Fortunately, there are also a number of available resources to gauge the level of outside support for a non-profit. The two sources I find most useful in assisting donors seeking data and analysis are Charity Navigator and Guidestar. These two firms import data the charity provides to the IRS in Form 990 disclosure statements and mixes it into their own proprietary formulas for comparison.
With my clients in particular, I advise that clients create their own micro-analysis of community support within the context of institutional leadership. Because strategies and personal investments from leadership are critical at any organization, it’s fair to examine the leaders responsible for the destiny of the organization and their level of individual giving on an annual basis. There are undoubtedly a number of Board members who are individually generous, dedicated and generally fabulous to have on the team. However, what percentage of the Board is donating to the organization and at what level are they making commitments is something I always look at as soon as I begin to assess an organization.
From my experience, I would say that many of my non-profit clients receive between 10% and 15% of their annual fund total solely from their boards. If those organization’s are looking for support from foundation partners, corporations or from savvy individual investors, the first thing I advise is that they get their Board giving to 100% - period. The fact of the matter is that if your Board (the individuals leading the organization and who are the closest to the organization) is not giving at 100% then there is no compelling case for ANY outsider to make a significant commitment.
At the end of the day, the degree to which the Board is contributing and at what participation level is a simple and potent way to gauge success as this metric sets the tone for others in the community.
If nothing else, remember this ....Successful strategies and philanthropic support START with the Board!