A Nonprofit New Year’s Resolution

By: Ksenia Popke & Dave Studebaker75217522

With the New Year upon us and a fresh start for all, with the time of reflection on 2015 and setting 2016 goals, here is one that will help your organization ensure efficiency, sustainability and compliance. Resolve to improve your process documentation this year. Don’t put it on the back burner, take it one process at a time and before you know, you have created a lasting impression (OR masterpiece).

Nobody wants to spend time documenting what they do. It’s time consuming and you could actually be “doing” it rather than writing it. Employees and management of nonprofits are supremely focused on achieving their mission. It’s easy to organizationally procrastinate until a time when there is more free time or more room in the budget. Just as routine maintenance on your car is important to keeping it running smoothly when you need it, updating your organizations processes and controls is vital to keeping the organization humming.


Documentation of processes provides visibility across an organization likely identifying duplicated efforts and redundant processes. It allows a nonprofit to provide role definition and standardization. Nobody has to reinvent the wheel…and then unknowingly reinvent it again…and again. Efficiency allows a nonprofit to focus on mission.


Good process documentation forms the basis for “organizational knowledge” (as contrasted with individual knowledge). The U.S. Department of Labor reported in its biennial report in 2014 that average employee tenure in the United State is 4.6 years. Many nonprofits would likely report a period of far shorter tenure in their workforces. Good process documentation greatly reduces the training time every instance a position turns over (and thus greatly reduces the cost of turnover to the nonprofit). Sustainable processes allow a nonprofit to thrive and be prepared during periods of expected and, far less convenient, unexpected turnover, saving money to use for mission.


Let’s be honest, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. Well documented processes lead to effective internal controls which will prevent or identify and correct errors before they become bigger problems. The only effective way for a nonprofit to ensure it is meeting all regulatory, debt, donor or other requirements is a systematic, documented process. Compliance means continuing to operate without the threat of revocation of tax exempt status, default or lawsuit.

Well documented processes allow a nonprofit to think forward to best accomplish their mission rather than employees spinning their wheels and responding to the “fire of the day.”

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