In the nonprofit field, the development of a new program generally begins with receiving some type of grant award. Of course, nonprofits can develop programs without being awarded a grant, but the money needed to create and implement any type of program will need to come from a philanthropist or through other fundraising efforts and activities.
For purposes of this article, let’s say that you received a grant and are now ready to develop your program. Although most of the following program components are mentioned or alluded to in the grant proposal, these ten items will need to be addressed as you develop and implement your program:
1. You will need to develop a work plan with the program’s goals and objectives. I develop work plans using a template that has six columns. The first column lists each goal; the second column lists each objective under the goal; the third column lists the staff person(s) responsible for completion of the objective; the fourth column lists the objective’s deadline; the fifth column lists each objective’s budget allocation, if applicable; and the six column is reserved for any comments related to the objective (e.g., if the objective was modified or deleted, if additional funding is required, etc.). Using this type of template makes it easy to monitor the progress of the grant program, ensuring that all goals and objectives are met in a timely manner.
2. You will need to ensure that you have adequate staff members available to develop the program as specified in the grant proposal. If you plan on using existing staff members, you will need to consider how adding new responsibilities will change their current jobs. If an existing staff member works part-time, and your proposal states that you need to fill a part-time position, then perhaps they can absorb the job duties of the new position, assuming they desire additional hours or full time employment. If, on the other hand, your grant proposal requires a full-time employee, you can either use an existing staff person and modify their job duties accordingly, or you could hire a new staff member. If you decide on the latter, then you will need to create and post a job announcement, screen applications, set up interviews, and hire a new employee, based on the organization’s human resource policies and procedures.
3. You will need to ensure that you are targeting those individuals identified in your grant proposal. This proposal should specify the number and types of people you intend to recruit and serve. For example, is your target population Caucasian males over 70; at risk youth in low income families, between the ages of 13 to 17; or some other group? I suggest developing a list that delineates the characteristics of your potential clients, so all staff employed under the grant clearly understand who they are recruiting and providing services to. How to reach these clients will be discussed later.
4. All grant proposals are required to contain an operating budget. Determine who is responsible for monitoring the budget. More than likely it will be the grant coordinator, but check the grant proposal to confirm the responsible party. Regular monitoring of the budget will help you to ensure that your expenses are not exceeding allocated amounts, whether or not any changes need to be made to ensure that adequate funding is available for all goals and objectives, and demonstrate your commitment to fiscal accountability.
5. All programs require policies and procedures to communicate the organization’s values and standards related to specific areas of operation and the overall operation of the new program. Policies state the organization’s values and beliefs. Procedures outline what steps will be taken, when, and in what order, to support the respective policy.
6. To reach your target population, outreach is an essential component of any new program. Where do you potential clients live, work, or hang out? What other professionals or agencies work with individuals you hope to serve? I recommend that you develop a list of those individuals and organizations you need to contact, not only to educate them about your new program, but to solicit potential clients as well.
7. To market your new program, you will need to develop a variety of marketing tools and strategies. Marketing tools are the materials you use to educate the public about your program. They can include, but are not limited to, brochures, business cards, fact sheets, fliers, and websites. Once you develop your marketing materials, which strategies will you use to reach your potential clients? Examples of marketing strategies include, but are not limited to, sending information via e-mail or regular mail, sending public service announcements to radio stations, and advertising in magazines or journals.
8. With any new program, data collection and software to input your data is essential. It helps you to keep track of who you are serving, what services are being provided, and whether or not these services have helped your clients to achieve desired outcomes. Tracking data can help you to see where the holes are in your program, what areas need to be tweaked, and what areas are working well. In addition, you’ll want to share specific types of data with your funding source.
9. Reports are an integral part of all programs, whether they are new or existing. Funding sources require reports to ensure that their money is being used wisely, and for the purpose in which it was originally intended. Also, other stakeholders (e.g., board members, collaborative partners) might request reports to assess the progress of a program and the impact it is having on the community. Reports generally summarize the program’s activities and data to demonstrate the progress of the program.
10. For every program, there should be some type of evaluation to assess whether or not the program provided the services it intended to and if the desired outcomes were actually achieved. Program evaluation can be done through examining data and/or client feedback. You will have to determine whether to use qualitative or quantitative data in your evaluation. Quantitative data (e.g., scales are generally used) is easier to collect and report on, but qualitative data gives you more detailed information regarding a client’s satisfaction with services and whether or not these services resulted in desired outcomes.
Although there are other aspects of program development, implementation, and evaluation, the 10 components described above are the most critical. If you have a work plan (with goals and specific objectives) in place, have staff to run the program, understand who you are trying to reach, have an operating budget that you monitor on a regular basis, have policies and procedures that guide the program, know where to reach your potential clients, have developed relevant marketing materials and strategies, know which data you want to collect and have a system for collecting it, have a reporting mechanism in place, and know how you are going to evaluate the success of your program, you are well on your way to developing and implementing a good, strong, and successful program.