Dropping Programs: You Go First!

board development and revitalization mission. vision. values oversight and accountability: measurement Jun 19, 2023
Dropping Programs: You Go First!


We are very good at adding programs and services. But how do we drop them? How do we address the concerns of the very small minority clinging to the outdated, too expensive program but still finding it useful? How do we reconcile high expenditure on a small number when the same funds could serve many for far greater impact?


Well, let me assure you that I don’t have the answer.


But that doesn’t let you off the hook as a board member or director! I do have questions you need to ask at the Board table.


The most successful not-for-profits cut programs as often as they add new ones – after all, your resources are finite, and you cannot continue to serve yesterday’s needs while having funds to address today’s and tomorrow’s changing and more critical needs.


So how do you focus on what not to do? Well, it comes back to your mission, doesn’t it? Is it sufficiently focused to allow decisions to be made about programs and services that fall within and without your mission? That is where to start.


If you don’t use your mission, do you have another criterion or filter for reviewing programs to eliminate as you add? When did you last discuss what not to do, as well as what to do? How do you avoid the new shiny object syndrome and stick to your core values and beliefs, regardless of the new money available?


  • Have you made the tough choices? Are there patterns in your decision-making? Are your criteria for review and possible elimination known, formalized and written in policy? Or whimsical, of-the-moment and serendipitous?
  • When did you last have a systematic review of each program, the written purpose and objectives and the measures of success, matched to the objectives?
  • You audit your finances, the inputs to programs and services Why are you not auditing your programs and services, the outputs to those resources?
  • What are your core programs and services? What are your “next level” programs and services?

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  • When were they last evaluated? By what criteria? What were the results? Where are they available?
  • What are your opportunity costs? That is, when you offer one program what others are we bypassing or overlooking?
  • Do you undertake cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses? Who does these? How are they used?
    What is the net cost per user for each of your programs? Although not the only criterion what other benefits are available that aren’t measured for cost-per-user comparisons?


You get the idea.


Ideally you have an audit committee to monitor, evaluate and audit programs and services, as you do for finances. Or at least to ask the questions, set up the systems, prepare the policies, to ensure that it is done.


You can afford no less.


What are your main “pain points” dealing with program relevance?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.



Want Answers to Your Questions?

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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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