Decision making in a non profit is critical. Decisions can be made that have extremely positive or extremely negative impact on you and those around you. The decision you make to fund an elaborate new program may impact the giving on another local program that is also required for you to succeed at your mission. One example of this would be if we were to go on a $200,000 fundraising campaign to obtain land for our urban teaching farm. Some would say this is great, you are pursuing your goals and will be able to implement your program. Good job! However, because the amount of philanthropic giving is fairly fixed in our community, what we wouldn’t see is that because we shifted $200,000 from existing programs that we depend on, perhaps a community garden project that would have been a feeder for clients to the urban farm, that project might have to shut down or be cancelled thus really reducing our effectiveness in the community. Because of this complexity, it is wise to have a decision making criteria, or clear statement of priorities. This will help in every aspect from funding and spending to local partnerships with other programs. This prioritization framework was suggested by Robert Egger in his book, “Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient, and Rewarding for All.” The framework is clean and straightforward. If you have a clearly defined cause that is carefully chosen to take into consideration inter-dependencies then that should always be your top priority. If you are succeeding at that, then your second priority, your clients, will also be succeeding. If your clients are succeeding, then you are also succeeding on the third priority, the community. The fourth priority is to that of your donors, staff, and board. These interests are stated so that they are not overlooked and are prioritized appropriately for how decision making should occur.
This prioritization will be used in how we make decisions. We will adhere to this framework and use our Cause, Clients, Community, and Constituencies in that order to make clear, consistent priority decisions in order to have the greatest impact possible.