Friday, April 26, 2013

5 Steps To A Nonprofit Pilot Program

Does your nonprofit have an interesting idea that hasn't yet been tested? Before you throw caution to the wind and test your idea in real-world conditions, it's a good idea to run it as a pilot program first to iron out any potential problems.

Alex Neuhoff and Andrew Belton in their report, “Putting Clients at the Center: A Planning Guide for Multi-Service Organizations,” produced by The Bridgespan Group, outlines five questions to ask when designing a pilot program:

  • Where and how will you start? Do you want to focus on a specific client base, or specific region? If you plan to narrowly focus the pilot, be sure you’ll be able to generalize the results across your organization.
  • How will you evaluate the pilot? Look at process, program activities and outcomes. Decide if you want a more comprehensive (and expensive) outside evaluation, or if you’ll do it in-house.
  • How much will the pilot cost? The cost usually comes out to additional costs of your approach, investments in infrastructure, and management of the pilot. You can break these down into one-time “setup” costs and ongoing costs related to the new program.
  • How will you pay for it? Will you chase additional grants or pay for it from your financial reserves, or a combination of the two?
  • How do you use what you’ve learned? What challenges and unforeseen developments have the pilot uncovered? How do you scale up the pilot to an organization-wide program?

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