Bridgespan: Non-profits use 19 management tools

18 March 2015 4 min. read
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With non-profits under increased pressure to perform and with ever dwindling funds, management tools are a way to streamline operations while cutting excesses. To find out how non-profits are using such tools, The Bridgespan Group surveyed the industry, finding that on average non-profits will use 19 management tools in 2015, with in particular collaboration and evaluative tools gaining in popularity.

Most non-profits have a mission, some goal to achieve, by performances often limited or constrained by ever shrinking funding pools. Performance, getting the project done within budget and in line with the mission of helping those in need, is a key aspect of any non-profit. With the post-recession austerity, non-profits have been under increased pressure to perfect their performances, with less room for experimentation and room for blunder. Perfected performance requires, in many instances at least, sound project and team management – allowing resources to flow where they need to go, when they need to flow.

The Bridgespan Group, Nonprofit Management Tools and Trends 2014

To find out how non-profits have been managing, The Bridgespan Group* explores in a recently released survey, titled “Nonprofit Management Tools and Trends 2014”, the different management tools being deployed by non-profits to both enable best practice in projects as well as developing staff and external cooperative relationships. The firm surveyed 481 non-profit organisations to identify use of management tools and trends in the social sector, with the key finding that non-profits make wide use of management tools to streamline their performances.

The number of tools used by all organisations averages 11, with larger organisations tending to use more tools than their small brothers – with 14 for organisations with budgets >$50 million and 9 for those with <$1 million. The use of tools, according to 91% of the respondents, is expected to increase in 2015, with an average increase to 19 tools. Especially small firms want to start using more tools in 2015, doubling from 9 to 18.

Non-profits intend to increase tool use in 2015

Top tools
In terms of the kinds of tools that organisations are deploying in their day to day operations as well as mission oriented work, 86% of organisations used Partnership and Collaboration tools, Social Media Programs came in second at 78% and Strategic Planning in third at 70%. Program evaluation and Performance Measurement and Improvement are current at 69% and 66% respectively, although they are expected to become highly important in 2015, jumping to 92% deployment. Strategic planning will drop in the ranking, with 89% uptake in 2015.

Of the tools used by organisations, Partnership and Collaboration rank highest for both 2014 and the projection for 2015. These tools are seen as particularly important, according to the survey, with three quarters of the organisations answering that in terms of their long term goals, collaboration is key to improving the impact of their missions and projects.

Top 10 tools 2014 and 2015

Evaluation tools too are on the increase in terms of engagement by non-profits, which, according to the survey, reflects the increased expectation that funders understand how their donated resources are spent, with 81% of respondents saying that they agree or strongly agree with the statement, “Funding for organisations like mine will be increasingly tied to program outcomes or evidence of success.”

The survey however also highlights that while the demand for enhanced information gathering has increased, the funding for research into the allocation of funding is not correspondingly forth coming for many of the organisations. 49% say they have increased their budget allocation for the task while only 18% of funders have increased funds to compensate the efforts.

increased investment in evaluation

The report concludes that “perhaps the most important message from this inaugural survey is this: pick your tools carefully to get the most out of the time, effort, and resources involved. Some, like performance measurement, should be a core part of what your organisation does every day. … [However] attempting to use too many tools without adequate investment in time and resources for implementation can undermine the effectiveness of all of them.”

* The Bridgespan Group is a non-profit consulting firm that provides management consulting to non-profits and philanthropists.