What does an organization assessment cover, when should it be done, and how can it be helpful?

An organization assessment – also commonly referred to as an organizational audit, taking stock, or an information-gathering phase – lays the groundwork for your strategic plan. As such, it should be conducted very early in the planning process. Its primary purpose is to help stakeholders understand the past and current state of your organization as a launching pad for thinking about the future.

A good starting place is to gather all relevant documentation – annual reports, program reports to funders, past strategic plans and assessments, financial reports, etc. Many strategic planners then recommend developing an assessment tool for use by those involved in the planning process.

An assessment tool is typically organized as a survey around various programmatic and functional areas such as

  • Human resources
  • Legal
  • Financial
  • Fundraising
  • Marketing and communications
  • Specific major programs

A common approach is to develop questions within each area that provide a snapshot as to how the organization is doing. For example, under a specific program, questions might include: “Do we have the resources committed to maintain the program?” and “Is the program in line with our mission?” Questions for the human resources category might ask, “Are we staffed at appropriate levels to carry out our goals?” or “Is staff compensation appropriate to industry standards?”

There are several organizations that offer free assessment tools to guide you in this process, including the Center for Nonprofit Excellence (http://www.cnpe.org/) and Centerpoint for Leaders (http://www.centerpointforleaders.org/).

The end product of this effort should be a report that lays out key findings and implications. Many of these will form the basis of your strategic plan.

Strategic Planning FAQ

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