Keeping your program relevant through assessment

In a blog recently posted at, Jan Masaoka compares stale programs in the nonprofit sector to an old fruitcake that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away. Like a fruitcake around the holidays, you may keep a struggling program around because of sentimental value. Nonprofit staff and board members often form an emotional connection to a program, so nonprofit leaders then fail to discontinue those programs.

Masaoka’s story mainly focuses on the reasons that leaders don’t take action in this scenario. It’s also worthwhile to examine how programs end up in a souring state and how to avoid this in the future. Assessment is an effective tool to examine these questions, and it can serve as a guide when deciding the direction of a program.

Before making a definitive decision on a stale program’s fate, you have to ask why the program became stale in the first place. External factors may affect the status of a program. For example, the community your program serves may be experiencing a shift in its demographic profile.  If that’s the case, then the needs of the community should be reassessed.

Trends in the economy may play a role in the state of your program. A stable economy and a turbulent economy affect the needs of a community differently. Is your program designed to meet the community’s current needs, or is it still operating according to a previous economic condition?

Without identifying the current needs of the population served, how can your organization properly address them? By assessing the needs of the community and the effectiveness of programs, relevant and sustainable impact can become the reality.

If your organization has a program that could use some revitalization, JVA can help. JVA has conducted program and community needs assessments on many scales in a variety of contexts. To find out how JVA can help your programs stay relevant to the needs of the populations served, call Jessica Craig at 303.477.4896.


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