How to Focus on Nonprofit Outcomes Not Hours

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Leadership Development

The workplace is changing. There’s remote work, hybrid work, and now four-day workweeks. As a nonprofit leader it can be challenging to weigh the changing needs of employees against an organization’s own goals. Which is why we want to talk about how to focus on nonprofit outcomes rather than hours.


What We Can Learn from Four-Day Workweek Experiments

In 2022, more than two dozen businesses in the U.S. and Ireland signed up to be part of a major four-day workweek experiment. One of the factors evaluated during the six-month test was the impact on business outcomes. According to CNBC:

Of those that provided data, businesses reported an 8% increase in revenue throughout the trial period, and a 38% increase from the same time period a year prior.

As the managing director at one organization that offers a four-day workweek explains, the first challenge was overcoming the “narrative of hours equaling output.” She reveals that, at the end of the day, organizations that adopt a four-day workweek:

…are handing folks more power over their schedules and over the ways they work on behalf of the organization.

Even if your organization isn’t ready for a four-day workweek, you can still take some valuable lessons from the experiment:

  • Outcomes don’t equal hours
  • A focus on outcomes over hours can boost success (revenue for businesses, impact for nonprofits)
  • Your employees aren’t task-doers, but rather people working on behalf of your organization
  • Giving people more freedom within their work helps build trust

So, how can you put these lessons into practice?


How to Shift Your Focus to Nonprofit Outcomes

  • Be clear about outcomes. Shifting your nonprofit to outcomes-focused management requires understanding target outcomes for your organization, each department, and different staff roles. In order to do this successfully, you’ll need to start with the big picture and work your way down. The first step is either consulting your strategic plan or, if you don’t have one, investing in a strategic planning process. If your strategic plan isn’t clear about outcomes, then it’s time to refresh it.
  • Engage your managers. Kickstarter, which participated in the four-day workweek experiment, reported they “saw some resistance from managers, since they’re the ones on the hook for making changes within their team and measuring outcomes.” Data shows that managers are increasingly struggling and in need of greater support. As you shift your institutional and management focus to outcomes, it’s vital to invest in ongoing training and support for managers.
  • Be consistent and accountable. If you’re making a shift to focus on nonprofit outcomes, make sure it’s available to all staff equally. By giving newer or more junior team members more trust and flexibility, you might just discover some hidden talents among your staff.
  • Make evaluation a regular habit. Imagine you’re launching a five-year project. You wouldn’t wait until the five years are up to evaluate progress! So don’t do the same for your staff members. Make regularly evaluating progress toward outcomes a part of your workplace culture. We recommend assessing progress at least quarterly, so there’s plenty of time for course corrections.


Nonprofit Outcomes Are Ultimately About Impact

One of the many benefits of focusing on nonprofit outcomes—rather than hours or activities—is that every single department and staff member will understand exactly how their work contributes to the organization’s success.

Since research finds “a lack of meaning in their work” is one of the top de-motivators for employees, showing your team how much their work means can also boost engagement and motivation. Which in turn will only strengthen your organization’s impact.

For more leadership and management resources, check out our Nonprofit Leadership Development Webinar Series: Leading with Intent.

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