Understanding Your Stakeholders

understanding your stakeholders 1

Guest Blogger – Sarah Cohn 

Nonprofits are, at their core, champions for the best in their communities. To best assess how well they are advancing their missions, reaching target audiences, or enacting social and community change efforts, nonprofits need to gather focused and targeted data from engaged stakeholders and from those community members they seek to serve.

How you go about gathering information about or feedback from your stakeholders (participants, audience or community members, donors, or other people who are or may become connected to your nonprofit) will be specific to your organization.  Your efforts should be focused on your mission, your programs, and the communities you seek to serve.

Starting with your nonprofit’s mission and vision, or the intended outcomes of a particular program, consider what questions you have that only your stakeholders can answer. Here are a few big-picture questions you might ask:

  • How aligned is our internal understanding of and our community’s understanding of our brand, mission or purpose?
  • How does our community think about us, about what we are here for, and about who we serve?
  • How aligned is our intended audience and our actual audience?
  • What sectors of our community are we actually serving vs who we want to serve?
  • How well are we achieving the different aspects of our mission?
  • How are our participants, board members, and other community stakeholders participating in or connecting with our mission?

Starting with big questions such as these will allow your evaluation efforts to focus on gathering the critical information you do not yet have about how well you are serving your community and your mission. Non-profits exist to advance community-grounded efforts, provide necessary services, and to, ultimately, provide a positive social good for individuals, groups, or the entirety of our communities. By integrating practices that allow us to gather information from and about those we serve, or seek to serve, our non-profits can continuously refine our programs, practices, and engagement efforts to make a meaningful difference in our communities.