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A Study of Nonprofit Performance in the 23-County Metro Atlanta Area | Summary

In a study by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, in partnership with The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, nearly 400 Metro Atlanta organizations provided insight into two critical areas – their strategy development processes and practices, and their engagement in policy advocacy.

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Strategy Development

Though 80% of survey respondents have a strategic plan, only 70% would call those plans current. Those numbers dropped in relation to organization size: among nonprofits with budgets under $500,000, just 61% report having a strategic plan, and only 48% are current. The data further suggests, however, that the plans they do have aren’t necessarily robust enough to guide the organization’s work.

It’s crucial that the strategic planning process includes robust data sources at the forefront, and that the plan goes beyond mission, vision, and goals to address execution, operation, and metrics-driven evaluation

While most survey respondents indicated that their strategic plans include higher level components such as mission statements, vision statements, and strategic goals, a third or more lacked components essential to acting on those goals—such as a revenue plan, a budget, a staffing plan, and an evaluation process.

The study also identified shortfalls in the strategic plan development process, finding that nearly half of respondents base their goals and outcomes on internal data, rather than a market-focused strategy rooted in community perspective and competitor analysis. This lack of contextual awareness can lead to service duplication and reduced impact in target communities.

In short, it’s crucial that the strategic planning process includes robust data sources at the forefront, and that the plan goes beyond mission, vision, and goals to address execution, operation, and metrics-driven evaluation.

Policy Advocacy

While more than 90% of respondents agreed that public policy work is a positive and necessary activity, 65% acknowledged that they never or rarely engage in advocacy activities. The overwhelming takeaway is that advocacy is not a part of most nonprofits’ focus or annual plan. Where advocacy work does happen, motivation usually comes from either an executive mandate, or from a specific negative policy development affecting the mission or funding.

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