The definition of efficiency used by your organization reflects the org’s values, mirrors the purposes of your programs, and tells the world what’s important to you. This is also true for your funders’ definitions of efficiency.

In the 2 Tips below, we are encouraging you to honor the full range of what counts as efficiency with a long-term view for meeting the community needs that you intend to. We are also championing you and your team to make the definition of efficiency reflective of the organization’s values and priorities.


2 Tips

Tip 1:

Intentionally and authentically define efficiency for your organization. Everyone inside the organization should know and use this definition!

Tip 2:

Reflect on the definition of efficiency used by your funders or ask them for it if it’s unclear. Strive for the funding partnership to be anchored to an authentic definition or advocate for this.

Dangers of a default definition:

Here are the dangers, or risks, that arise with a default, or misaligned, definition of efficiency:

1 |  Across the programs and services that the organization provides, different standards, benchmarks, and paradigms are being used. This can create confused outcomes across programs and disunity across the staff team.

2 |  During data analysis and evaluation periods, leadership is looking at the outputs and outcomes across multiple programs in incoherent ways because the data and other information was collected, consolidated, and reported in divergent ways.

3 |  Organizations adhere to the default or intentional definitions of efficiency put forth by funders even when the definitions are inauthentic to the mission of the organization and the purpose of the programming.


Potential definitions to use in dynamic community-based organizations:

1 |  CONVENTIONAL ACROSS MULTIPLE SECTORS “ability to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort”

2 |  CONVENTIONAL IN THE NONPROFIT SECTOR “”the number of people who receive a service”

3 |  A BIT MORE DYNAMIC “activities productive of desired effects”

4 |  A BIT TOO DYNAMIC? “intellectual, material, and interpersonal alignment between goal, process, and transformational result”


A few benefits to an authentic definition:

A \\\\ Annual appraisals and staff coaching will be more transparent and unbiased when the same standard and spirit of efficiency is used throughout the organization.

B \\\\ Tactics and activities designed to carry-out the Strategic Plan should primarily be those that reflect efficiency – does your org really have time for activities that do not advance your strategic direction?

C \\\\ Programming data can actually be used to assess efficiency in delivering on the program purpose when the program is collected through an appropriate lens of efficiency.


Questions to ask about redefining efficiency in your organization:

[[ How are the lives of the community members supposed to change because of your program? How should this purpose show up in the definition of efficiency? ]]

[[ How are the skills & knowledge of your staff supposed to advance over time because your organization’s support systems? How should this show up in the definition of efficiency?  ]]

[[ Should our organization swap-out the word “efficiency” for the phrase (and lens) “what effects are we creating/co-creating with the community?” ]]

Why did we develop 2 Tips videos?

We know that many professionals and organizational leaders do not have the funds to partner with specialists (like us) and/or the time to strategize on what might seem like extra projects.

We launched these 2 Tips videos to support you with making tweaks, adjustments, and refinements in programs and operations — doable for busy professionals like you!