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Is Your Non-Profit Program Hoarding?

You never know what will resonate in a meeting.  Always one to give credit where it is due: thank you reality TV.

In speaking before a group of young program directors I discussed our organization’s propensity to pursue constant program development without the hard work of pruning old programs.  I described ourselves as “program hoarders” and it sure resonated with the group.

Navigating through our program guides and websites it reminds me of an episode of the television show.  Pages and pages of stuff we offer that have a minimal impact, little usefulness and may not reflect our strategy or mission.  Our justification mirrors the folks on the TV show: just in case, we’ve always had this, it might make a comeback, I made it, I plan on fixing it one day, etc.

Ending a program that has served hundreds or thousands during its lifespan IS NOT FAILURE. Failure is letting it limp along on life-support.  Failure is not ending a program that didn’t achieve the impact goal and we simply leave it on the menu consuming resources, time and energy from programs that could be great.  Also, ending it does not mean it will not ever see the light of day again — bell bottom jeans came back, you just never know.

We cannot allow our organization’s roots prevent our forward movement.  Deep rooted legacy programs may enrich our history, but they do not have to impede our future.

The practice of offering more programs does not necessarily equate to growth in impact, mission delivery or social value.  The pursuit of program volume to show how busy the organization is can overshadow opportunities to develop true life-changing, community altering programs.  In terms of program offerings we can certainly do far more with less.