Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence: A Holistic Approach to Business Process Improvement - Heller Consulting

Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence: A Holistic Approach to Business Process Improvement

When you consider your nonprofit’s goals, you might ask yourself, “Are we doing things as efficiently and effectively as possible?” Whether your focus is on development operations, program delivery, internal communications, or some other area of your organization, it’s a great question to ask because it gets to the heart of nonprofit operational excellence.

One framework for organizing and planning for operational change is to look for needed adjustments in three overarching categories: people, processes, or technology.

Some organizations look at the question from a nonprofit business process improvement perspective, asking what adjustments will make a process faster and easier. Some organizations look at it from a people angle, thinking about the staffing, skills, and change management needs of their team to address a challenge. Others think about it with a technology mindset, looking for new products or updates to existing tools that will help things run more smoothly.

While focusing on any one area can yield results, changes in one area often impact and require changes in the other areas. That’s why I recommend organizations look at all three areas holistically to achieve greater results.

A holistic approach to nonprofit operational change  

Here at Heller Consulting, we help nonprofits address operational excellence by considering all three areas: an organization’s people, business processes, and technology. This approach ensures that changes are more successful, becoming a part of the way the organization does its work and delivering the intended benefits.

For example, developing a new business process may be an important step in improving efficiency or delivering a service. But you must also make sure that you have staff with the right training to carry out the business process, along with the right tools and technology to support the steps. Bringing in a new staff member may bring critical capacity to your team, but without the business processes and tools to ensure the role is successful, the team member may not be able to make the intended impact. And any change in your technology often requires training or adjustment in your business processes.

That’s why a holistic approach to change makes operational improvements most effective.

Discover tips and insights on how to align technology, people, processes, and data. Read The Nonprofit’s 2022 Guide to Digital Transformation.

We’re finding that more nonprofits are seeing the value of working with our team through an operational assessment that uses this holistic approach. This audit starts with the organization’s goals, and then considers what adjustments in the three areas will best help them meet their goals.

While we look across all three impact areas, the emphasis of the assessment can begin to narrow its focuses depending on the organization’s specific needs and goals. For example, an organization might have grown tremendously over the past several years, but still have the same small group of people in development operations and must determine how to grow the team effectively. The operational assessment can help to identify what roles are needed, how many staff members should be added, and what processes and technology might need to be implemented or modified to support the new staff structure.

So, the methodology for the operational assessment doesn’t change, but it can shift emphasis based on each organization’s goals.

How the nonprofit operational assessment works

In an operational assessment, we work collaboratively with our nonprofit clients to help them:

  • Identify what areas of the organization they’re trying to impact
  • Review existing technology, process documentation, reports, staffing charts, and training materials to audit how the organization is performing current work
  • Identify gaps between the current state and the organization’s goals
  • Develop an action plan that includes clear recommendations for people, process, and technology changes that will positively impact the operational goals

The organization can then put the action plan to work, or we can help with operational streamlining services that include:

  • Business process mapping and documentation – We help to create or update process documentation so that it can be incorporated into training and system configuration. For more complex business process changes, we help to create a detailed current business process map, prioritize areas for improvement, brainstorm solutions, and then build a visual map of the future state business process.
  • Training, staffing plans, and change management – We develop a training plan based on the organization’s needs, covering both business processes and system training as appropriate. Our change management experts also provide a framework to help smooth the transition to new processes and technology throughout the organization. Finally, new or different roles may be needed altogether.
  • System configuration and support – We work with the organization to implement recommended changes to the organization’s technology systems. This can be changes to current systems, improved integrations, adoption of new apps or tool, or wholesale changes in technology platforms. We look at what is reasonable over the timeframe and budget we’re assessing to ensure the technology reinforces business processes and uses industry best practices.


Take the next step for operational excellence at your nonprofit

Here at Heller Consulting, we help nonprofits to not only select and implement technology, but also improve business processes to use technology in a way that helps them deliver on their missions.

Learn more about our operational assessment service, which can help your organization work more efficiently and effectively: Contact us today.

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About the Author

Jett Winders
Jett works collaboratively with nonprofits to map their business needs to CRM tools and functionality so that organizations can deliver their missions more effectively and raise money more efficiently.  With more than 15 years of fundraising experience, Jett has had... Read More