Congratulations, you’re ahead of the curve!
Based on your answers , it seems that your organization is performing quite well in all major areas of performance, though if you’re dealing with any specific performance issues, we would be happy to discuss them further.
Based on your answers, it seems your organization might not have the resources (or the needs) of larger NGOs.
That said, organizations of all size can benefit from commonsense performance improvement measures such as:
- Documenting job roles and processes
- Adopting appropriate technologies (particularly modern collaboration/communication tools like Slack and Google Drive)
- Curating lists of recommended YouTube videos, links and websites to train staff on general skills (and using inexpensive screen capture software like OBS to create quick training videos on your organization-specific processes)
- Keeping all of your files in a well organized, shared, online repository (Google Drive, Dropbox, AWS) instead of on local hard drives
Based on your answers, we have identified a few areas of performance that might be of particular concern for your organization (scroll down to view scores for all areas).
Appropriate Use of Technology
NGOs face a number of challenges related to technology.
First and foremost, many of the countries where international NGOs operate lack reliable, affordable broadband internet connectivity, rendering many technologies infeasible.
Second, technology purchases are often made with specific grants or project-restricted funds, which makes strategic planning difficult. Decentralized organizational structures can make standardization even more difficult.
Finally, while there are some NGOs that embrace cutting-edge technology, most have an “institutional” orientation, and tend to use outmoded technologies (e.g., still using email for internal communication vs. a threaded discussion platform like Slack).
However, NGOs that find creative ways to leverage appropriate technologies within a well-considered framework can greatly increase the productivity of their staff and, in turn, their mission impact. A few specific recommendations include:
- Enlist the IT function as a strategic partner, finding ways that technology can advance the organization’s mission, as opposed to a maintenance organization. Actively research the needs of project teams and observe the work habits of users at every level of the organization, from global headquarters to local offices, to get a sense of their preferences and needs
- Establish clear policies regarding which apps teams should use for which purposes (e.g., “All surveys should be done via Survey Monkey” or similar). Set up enterprise accounts for web apps to save money and facilitate sharing of information. Also, develop a clear process for consideration of new technologies
- Create on-demand resources with quick links to support articles on software publishers’ websites, particularly helpful YouTube tutorials and – for processes that are specific to your organization – screen captured tutorials (we recommend giving every team member a copy of Open Broadcast Software to help them record screen capture videos and Gyzao for sharing static screen shots)
When organizations hire individuals with the right aptitudes, equip them with the right technologies and provide them with opportunities/incentives to grow their skills and knowledge, it can have a multiplier effect on the organization’s overall impact.
Unfortunately, many NGOs struggle in this area. Budget constraints make it difficult to compete with the commercial sector for talent, and project-restricted funding leaves little money for global training and technology investments.
Nonetheless, NGOs can close the gap by thinking strategically and encouraging/enforcing coordination across teams. Specifically, NGOs can:
- Standardize job roles (not necessarily titles) with clearly defined job tasks and skill sets, allowing for the development of a clear learning / talent development path for each role
- Establish an organizational learning and knowledge sharing framework, to ensure that any training materials or knowledge resources developed for one project can be leveraged across the entire organization
- Hire for aptitude, rather than credentials or experience. This will allow you to find generally capable people who can be trained to perform specific roles, versus experienced people with higher salary expectations. Developing a battery of skills tests can help you identify individuals with potential
- Are your processes documented? Can they be streamlined and simplified? Are you using the most appropriate technology tools? Sometimes you can get higher productivity from the same people by making a few basic process improvements
It seems that the scalability of your projects might be constrained by larger organizational issues.
Due to the way projects are funded, many NGOs tend to operate in an extremely siloed / compartmentalized manner. This creates inefficiencies such as duplication of effort, development of redundant systems and inequitable allocation of resources.
Fortunately, there are strategies NGOs can employ to develop permanent, scalable capacity with project-restricted funds, including:
- Implementation of improved knowledge sharing platforms (in the sense of ‘technology platforms’ for file sharing & communications) and policies
- Creation of an operational framework to standardize certain processes across projects
- Establishing an organizational technology framework/strategy, to ensure that technology developed or procured for one project can be leveraged across the entire organization
- Encouraging project teams to create on-demand learning materials instead of delivering training through one-off workshops that cannot be easily replicated for other staff and other teams in the future
International NGOs face many of the same challenges with coordinating across countries and departments as a multinational corporatoin, but with a fraction of the budget. To further complicate matters, many NGOs have cultural and historical factors that further complicate efforts to improve coordination, and prevent them from leveraging their size to create efficiencies of scale.
That said, there are a number of practical steps NGOs can take to improve coordination, such as:
- Leveraging modern communication and collaboration tools such as Slack and Google Drive to the greatest extent practical
- Documenting key processes, best practices and innovations and finding effective ways to share this information throughout the organization
- Standardizing technology tools and platforms across the organization, setting up well-organized repositories of digital assets
- Developing training programs to support standardized processes and ways of working, in convenient on-demand formats