Designing Scalable Programs – Lessons for Non-Profits

Being resource constrained is the reality for nearly all organizations, regardless of industry, mission, or size. Non-profit organizations, however, face the additional challenges of being mission-driven, not cash-flow generating with big plans and small budgets. In working with a small, San Francisco-based non-profit this summer designing a strategy to scale their organization’s reach on a global scale, I learned a lot about the questions to ask and had the following thoughts:

  • Define success early, figure out how to measure progress towards it 6-ways from Sunday, and design flexible-enough programs that can be adjusted as the understanding of success changes.
  • Design IT infrastructure and technology ecosystems that will allow you to capture the information needed to measure success across geographies, manage/facilitate your communication with relevant stakeholders, and provide data to support your flexible management approaches.
  • Understand your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and staff accordingly. When scaling internationally, ask yourself if your organization geographic, cultural, technical prowess to be successful – and identify and (aggressively) screen local partners that will play to your weaknesses.
  • Make a timeline! Don’t worry about sticking to it – but use it as a roadmap to keep your organization on track.

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