Agencies hire consultants because there is no extra time available among the staff for working on special projects. We understand that. Even not-so-special projects are managed by consultants. Agencies spend the time and talents of staff on direct service work, and have less access to their insights and experience when consultants work on research, planning and organizational design. By outsourcing the thinking and planning aspects of not-for-profit management, we run the risk of losing buy-in to the final result.
When we say we’re building community capacity, we mean it. A successful project to us is one that builds the capacity of community organizations while getting results on project goals.
Data analysis is one area where developing your internal capacity will pay off. This may seem a little counter-intuitive: I've heard Executive Directors say they can lose up to three months or every year to data gathering and reporting to funders.
All this reporting overhead can cause agencies to neglect some important impact measures. It's critical to long-term success to be clear about the beneficiaries you’re serving or the cause you’re championing, the outcomes you expect for the beneficiaries or the change you hope to make. Come up with two or three clear outcome measures to track how you’re doing, and take time to think about and discuss the results.You spend so much time on reporting to funders, make sure you also develop the internal capacity to tell your own unique story and measure your impact on the community you serve. It will help your decision-making and and tightening up your strategy.
Data gathering and analysis is one example of internal capacity building that will pay off quickly: the better you can tell the story of your impact, the more support you can secure.