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Should your nonprofit add a new program or service?

There are lots of reasons you might consider adding a new program or service at your nonprofit. Maybe your clients have requested something new or you’ve identified an unmet need. Or perhaps you found a grant opportunity that’s a good fit, but it only supports new programs.

Whatever the reason, there are some important questions to consider before you add something new.

Does it align with our mission?

The first (and most important!) thing you should consider is if the program aligns with your mission. Your nonprofit’s mission should be the lens through which you make all major decisions, including whether to add a new program or service. If the program you’re considering doesn’t align with your mission, don’t move forward.

Is there a need for the program?

It takes a lot of time and money to develop and implement a new program. So before you commit to your new idea, identify the need your program will address. Then, make sure there’s an adequate need in your community for the program.

Here are some ways you can determine if there’s a need:

  • Speak with your current clients. Your clients can tell you if they have a need and if their peers have the same need. Your clients may also provide input on whether they would participate in the program you’re considering.
  • Review client data. Review any data you already have on your clients. These data may highlight unmet need and suggestions for new programs that clients have shared in the past.
  • Review community-level data. Community-level data collected through formal assessments (e.g., the Census or community health assessments) may help you identify if there’s a need and the extent of the need. Using this type of data is also the best way to show potential funders how much your community needs this program.

Will it work?

There’s no way to know for sure if your new program will work unless you have a time machine or crystal ball. But there are some tactics you can use to ensure the program’s success. The best way to ensure your program will address the need is to use an evidence-based or informed program. If you aren’t able to use an evidence-based or informed program, research what approaches have worked in the past and incorporate some of those into your program design.

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Do we have the time?

This might be the hardest question to answer because nonprofit staff are always adding too much to their plates. But let’s be honest. What is your current workload? How much are your staff and volunteers juggling? Can your organization really add another program without additional support?

 Do we have the money?

New programs cost money. Even if you plan to use existing staff, space, and supplies, you still need to consider the costs associated with reallocating your resources to a new program. Before you make a final decision about your new program, create a program budget. Factor in all the costs to develop and implement the program and then decide if you can afford it.

How will we sustain it?

If you’re developing a new program that will be covered entirely by a grant, consider how you will sustain the program after the grant money runs out. Don’t look at this as something you’re forced to consider just to answer those annoying sustainability questions. Because if this is truly a program that your community needs and will benefit the people you serve, it’s your community that will suffer if you have to end the program. So take the time upfront to consider other funding and partnerships that can help you sustain the program in the long-term.


Ready to develop that new program or service? Check out this post to learn more about program development and implementation – How to develop programs that impact your community.

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Grant Readiness

April 27, 2021

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