Searching and Discovering the Best in Nonprofit Management: Learn about What It Takes to Be Recognized as a Well-Managed Nonprofit Organization as the Washington Council of Agencies Shares Five Excellence-Award Winning Stories

By Sanow, Susan | The Public Manager, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Searching and Discovering the Best in Nonprofit Management: Learn about What It Takes to Be Recognized as a Well-Managed Nonprofit Organization as the Washington Council of Agencies Shares Five Excellence-Award Winning Stories


Sanow, Susan, The Public Manager


Amid increased awareness, growing scrutiny, and a scandal or two, the Washington area nonprofit sector has shining examples of outstanding nonprofit management. The search and discovery is done annually through the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, a project of the Washington Council of Agencies (WCA).

The award program was first awarded in 1995, and the partnership between WCA and the Washington Post began with the 2000 competition. The program will celebrate its 10th year with the 2004 competition. The winner of the competition receives a $5,000 cash grant. Four honorable mention awards of $1,000 also are given. (Beginning with the 2004 competition, the George Washington University also will be presenting a $2,500 scholarship to the winner of the 2004 award. The winner will be able to attend a nonprofit management course offered by the university.) All winners and honorable mention recipients are recognized for their achievements in a series of congratulatory advertisements in the Washington Post. The competitive program is open to all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in the Washington metropolitan area or to any member of the Washington Council of Agencies. An independent award selection committee judges the program.

The Search

The selection committee searches for unique and effective nonprofit management ideas in eight categories as described in the award application:

* Planning: Decision-making processes concerned with the selection of actions, based on systematic reasoning, to achieve desired ends.

* Financial Management: Appropriate allocation, expenditure, control, and accounting of financial resources.

* Organizational Management: Actions necessary to structure the organization's internal management and system of accountability to achieve its purpose.

* Resource Development: Methods through which an organization seeks, obtains, and sustains the financial and material resources necessary to achieve its purposes.

* People Development: Methods by which the understandings and skills needed by employees and volunteers are developed or enhanced.

* Information and Communication: Processes by which an organization's purpose, goals, and objectives are passed to its various constituencies--staff, board, members, clients, the general public--to facilitate cooperation, coordination, and/or knowledge.

* Risk Management: Activities relating to the protection of an organization's clients, employees, and volunteers from harm including innovative programs to ensure standards of prudent care are implemented.

* Use of Technology: Effective use of technology in accomplishing the organization's mission.

What Makes a Winner?

In the competition completed in June 2003, five organizations were selected as having the most outstanding nonprofit management practices. What makes a winner? We have learned after nine competitions that good nonprofit management does not happen by accident. Good management happens with an ongoing commitment by the board, staff, and community to learn, persevere, implement, and evaluate management practices. Consider the following generic aspects of what it takes to be a well-managed nonprofit organization:

* A well-defined mission statement that guides organization decision making.

* Organization structure that supports the organization's mission.

* A governance structure that moves the organization forward.

* A well-developed planning process with input from all levels of the organization.

* Systematic ways of evaluating how well the organization is serving its various constituencies, responds to changes in client need, and addresses environmental/external changes.

* A solid grasp of major management challenges confronting the organization and forceful action to deal with them.

* An individual who shows outstanding leadership through his/her ability to create and sustain organizational change. …

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