Have you been thrown into a situation where you are expected to manage operations, and are at a loss as to where one should even start? You’re not the first- or the last. With operations management, the refrain “You don’t know what you don’t know” rings particularly true. Each area of operations is a whole world of its own, where people spend years developing specialized expertise in how to manage it well. But in small nonprofits, it’s just not realistic to have an expert in each of these areas. So we make do.
I recently facilitated an operations management training for our fellows, and put together this list of materials, which serve as starting points for assessing particular areas of operations, so that you can have clear grounding in identifying where it is you should focus your time and energy to best improve the organization:
- Executive Director’s Guide to Financial Leadership – High-level overview of how to provide excellent financial leadership.
- Financial Infrastructure Self-Assessment – Assessment checklist from FMA with accompanying tools for use to address each area in need of improvement.
- Accidental HR Manager Checklist – A one-page overview of the key items one should not overlook in the realm of Human Resources.
- Art of Facilitation – Facilitation makes the difference between a meeting being productive or frustrating. This tool from the Social Transformation Project provides a nuanced overview of how to be an excellent facilitator.
- IT Best Practices – A checklist of the key priorities for effective information technology management from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
- Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) Guide & Comparison Chart – Detailed overview of CRMs, from basic definitions to advice on how to choose a system and set it up effectively.
- Legal Self-Assessment Checklist – A guide from Wayfind for helping nonprofits to understand common legal obligations and to highlight areas where greater inquiry should be made.
- Disaster Planning and Recovery – This guide from Techsoup is intended both for organizations striving to be better prepared for an emergency and for organizations striving to rebuild and maintain operations after a disaster.
- Conflict of Interest 3-Dimensional View – Overview from Blue Avocado of types of conflicts of interest, examples of situations, and templates for policies.
- Wheel of Change Overview & Checklist – Managing a change process involves more than the creation of new systems and structures. Just as important is paying attention to hearts & minds and habits & behaviors, as outlined in this great tool from the Social Transformation Project.
Obviously you’ll be quickly overwhelmed if you try to use all these tools at once, so be strategic. What areas are people complaining about the most? Where will they be most open to considering change? Pick one area, change some things that make things better for folks, and use those small wins to build up support for bigger organizational changes. For example, the Accidental HR Manager Checklist can give you quick insights into where you’re falling short, with an easy path forward.
Do you have any favorite resources that you would add to this list? Please do share them!
About the author: Ananda Valenzuela serves as the Managing Director at Rainier Valley Corps. Ananda grew up in Puerto Rico and has slowly made her way across the continental United States, finally landing in Seattle to pursue her passion of doing capacity-building and leadership development with social impact organizations. She most recently worked at Third Sector New England, a nonprofit capacity-building firm, where she managed a consulting program and developed a fellowship program. She has also held a variety of consultant, governance and activist roles within the nonprofit sector. Ananda has a B.A. in organizational development and institutional ethnography from Hampshire College.
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