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14 Feb



Most nonprofits take their mission for granted. As communities change and people we serve require new solutions, many nonprofits stay true to their mission and traditional programming. This can not only affect community impact, it can decrease financial support. 

There are three simple ways to determine the relevance of your mission and programming in your community. This will not take a lot of time but will require organization, implementation, and consistent review. 


Feedback (Survey)

Feedback is perhaps the easiest way to examine the relevance of your mission and programming. I actually know of a person who achieved their PhD in how to develop impactful questions on surveys. Asking the right questions is not easy. It is recommended that an organization seek counsel from a seasoned professional in order to obtain develop  the most meaningful questions. Two of the most popular objectives with an effective survey: knowledge gain and knowledge application. It’s one thing to learn something new, it’s a totally different thing to apply that knowledge to change a social condition. An effective survey will accurately measure knowledge gain and knowledge application.

After developing meaning questions, a group of experienced people must determine the best vehicle for the survey. Will there be a better response in email, smart phone app, or on your website. In addition, organizations should keep track of how many surveys are sent out and how many are completed. If your organization receives less than 30% return rate, you should re-group and determine a better way to deliver the survey and communicate its importance. 

Data Collection


Many nonprofits obtain meaningful data on their programs and the people they serve. Some of this data can include socio-demographics, cultural data, retention, and generation. Some nonprofits miss key information that is helpful to determine your relevance in the community and to those you serve. Let’s take one small example: Attendance at a program or event. While some nonprofits track the number of people in attendance, fewer nonprofits track the percentage of those invited versus those who attending. This data can be a significant indicator of relevance, proper communication, and the overall organization of the program or event. While committees of diverse individuals can assist in data collection, it is recommended to seek professional guidance to gain experience in not only what you collect but how you collect the data. 

Impactful data is commonly used for grant proposals and overall funding strategies. The more frequent and accurate the data, the more compelling story you can tell to foundations, donors, and corporations. 



A variety of stakeholders can be extremely impactful on determining your relevance in the community. Some nonprofit organizations think of stakeholders as their board members or volunteers. In order to determine your relevance properly, stakeholders should include community leaders, government officials, people that you serve, and similar organizations who serve your target audience. The feedback and direction you will receive from this diverse and inclusive group can be life changing. All programs, events, and fundraising efforts should go through a formal feedback processes with a diverse group of stakeholders. The more diverse the stakeholders, the more relevant you organization will be. 

For a nonprofit organization to remain relevant, these three simple strategies can help improve your community impact. Relevance does not translate to overhauls or drastic changes. Relevance can be as simple as updating programs, reducing services that matter the most or increasing services to properly respond to the needs of those you serve. Either way, a nonprofit organization must continually test relevance and report back to the board of directors on what is working and what needs to be updated. If your organization has a website, include a relevance page. This can be helpful to those you serve and potential donors. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it and stay relevant because your community is counting on you. 

Brad Lebowsky, MBA


Connecting people, communities, and resources to grow exempt organizations.

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