The Basics of Developing a Program

One of my favorite components of a nonprofit organization is designing new programs. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to design award-winning and innovative programs throughout my tenure and to this day it continues to excite me. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned from this experience about program development.

A program…

  • Is a group of complementary activities that aims to achieve the1 desired outcome. 
  • May deliver a specific service (e.g. mentorship for youth) or a broader collection of related services (e.g. a teen program that provides wrap-around supports including housing, counseling, and employment opportunities).
  • Should align with your organization’s mission.

A program should not…

  • Be a one-time activity. 
  • Be so broad that it becomes difficult to understand the relationship between the activities, target population, and intended outcomes.

Interestingly when a founder starts a nonprofit they often come up with the program before developing the details of the nonprofit organization and don’t even realize it. Think about it… 

I know for me, when I founded L.O.V.E Our Youth, at the time L.O.V.E Our Young Women, I wanted to mentor teen girls and provide them opportunities that I may not have had. My very first program idea was mentoring girls on an ongoing basis. From there I was able to further develop the organization and its overall mission along with eventually expanding to three different programs: L.O.V.E Our Youth, L.O.V.E Our Community, and L.O.V.E Others. 

When designing your nonprofit programs here are some things to keep in mind:

Ask: Does the Program That We Are Developing Align With Our Mission? 

I found organizations developing programs that have nothing to do with their mission. This often time comes up when there is money on the table and an organization wants an opportunity to get additional funds. If the program does not align with your mission do not do it! 

Would you give money to an animal rescue that is developing a program to reduce animal cruelty or a senior center that is developing the same program? Why not?

Don’t Do It Alone

You hear me say this a lot and it’s the same thing here. Involve others in the process of developing a new program (i.e. participants, staff). When designing a program it is so easy to come up with a concept that you feel will work; only to build out the entire program design to find you have to go to the drawing board because you left out a key component: OTHERS.

Remember It’s a Process

Program design goes beyond simply coming up with an idea for a program – it’s a process. During the process of developing your program, some areas that should be addressed include: 

  • Is there a need for your program? 
  • How will it meet the need of the participants?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?

If you find yourself feeling discouraged during program development, try to take it one step at a time. And remember, we are here to help. The Nonprofit Enthusiast team can aid you in developing your nonprofit programs. Contact us to get started

2 thoughts on “The Basics of Developing a Program”

  1. This was outstanding information. Thank you for sharing and given clear understanding of what is needed with developing programs.

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