Previously we reviewed standardized metrics from third-party validator sites that funders and donors often use to determine a nonprofit’s viability for funding. However, it’s not just third-party sites that maintain metric benchmarks for nonprofits. Institutional funders often have their own internal evaluation sites and standardized metrics. In addition to sharing the core points that watchdog sites review (such as financials and governance), major institutions like the government’s Children’s Bureau and affluent foundations like the Ford Foundation also maintain their own evaluation system.
These metrics serve as indicators of a nonprofit’s likelihood to be successful with their grant allocation and produce impact aligned with the institution’s mandate. For Ford, and many foundation funders, an organization’s “readiness” is indicative of their ability to have a few core organizational strengths. They believe in assessments so much, that they have a public open-source tool to support nonprofits identify and prioritize their organizational strengthening needs. Within this Organizational Mapping Tool (OMT), they focus on 14 categories. We won’t dive into each one, but to illustrate a few top lines consider the focus areas as follows:
- Mission & Strategy - do you have clear, inspiring and compelling public commitments with formal goals, outcomes and a strategic plan?
- Field Engagement - is there a strong sense of mutual power and collaboration within your organization? Is your organization considered an active leader in networks, has a strong voice in the community and has a visibly strong reputation in the field?
- Administration - outside of maintaining legal obligations and an effective organizational leadership structure, what do your administrative policies look like? How do you leverage technology and information systems to ensure that the organization functions optimally?
This last one is so important. Is your organization tracking your data? What do your participant files include? Are you simply collecting demographics or measuring outputs against long-term impacts? Systems are so vital to your success as a nonprofit. And for many funders, it’s 50% of their considerations.
For example, major government institution distributed grants (like NY state’s Block Grant) also have their version of self-assessment tools. Their tools focus almost entirely on the data. They are focused on not just what information your organization is capable of tracking, but the use of that information to inform programming & services. There are also capacity-building programs that some funders operate to support nonprofits as they work towards securing grants from high-level funders. Robin Hood operates a workshop series entitled GRIT (Grant-Ready Insights and Training) project. Again, the bulk of the focus is on evaluation models and data tracking. What tools and software are you using to bolster your readiness?
In addition to the tools, program officers each often have their own way of identifying an organizations’ readiness. Much of their determining factors are a cross between relationship-building, visibility of the organization (how well you’re known within the community), and the data-driven proof points that underline your organization’s efficacy. These readiness tools and self-evaluations can support your prioritization as you work towards becoming ready for that break-through grant your organization needs to thrive.
In the next section we’ll discuss how technology tools and softwares like Casebook serve as a viable solution for metric traction and grant competitiveness.