Why a Nonprofit Excellence Awards Program?

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By Michael Clark, President, NPCC – the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York

NPCC proudly manages the New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards program, in collaboration with the Trust and Philanthropy New York. Now in its ninth year, it continues to grow in visibility and impact for New York area nonprofits, encouraging, teaching, and honoring outstanding management practices by nonprofit organizations.

The program helps participants better serve their clients and communities and achieve their missions. It also helps donors and would-be donors recognize “what matters” on the management side of nonprofit operations.

More than just a prize program, it seeks to raise nonprofits’ actual performance. We see it as an education and training program with awards. Studies like McKinsey & Company’s “‘And the winner is…” showed that if you structure a prize program for impact, it can have impact. Looking at such programs as the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management we built an intense application and review process asking for detailed descriptions of applicants’ management strategies and offering them detailed feedback from the program’s expert selection committee.

The Eight Key Areas of Nonprofit Excellence at the core of the program are drawn from the work of 21 state and regional associations of nonprofits around the country that promote “principles and practices” or “standards of excellence.” We built on these associations’ consensus areas of management identified as key to high performance. While there is no all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all blueprint for managing all nonprofits, these areas provide a pretty reliable “field guide” that enables each nonprofit to track how it’s doing.

This is a program that helps nonprofit managers aim higher by learning from those doing excellent work. It is, at heart, a program for managers by managers.

There are prizes for the best three performers each year and “Pathways to Excellence” workshops featuring each year’s top management strategies and past ones. Winners are featured at a Best Practices Workshop and Awards presentation in November. Winners and non-winners alike report that their big payoff is the rich feedback, shared knowledge and coaching expertise they get from our powerhouse selection committee. These supply the practical tools needed to improve management. Participants received more than 380 feedback calls over the first eight years, detailing strengths and areas for improvement.

Over eight years, $360K in prizes have gone to 26 winning organizations, with a total of 384 detailed feedback calls to applicants of all types and sizes. We served some 2,200 organizations. Participating nonprofits report making more than 3,100 organizational improvements as a result of participating.

As our field of nonprofit management grows and matures, each year we understand in a deeper way “what works” to become a high-performing nonprofit. We again look forward to sharing the lessons we’ll learn through the 2015 Awards! Come, join us – the deadline is May 1!!

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