For the last few weeks I have enjoyed working with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) to help update their Principles and Practices (P&P) tool.  Any nonprofit organization or consultant who is a member of the Michigan Nonprofit Association has access to this resource. This post is about making the Principles and Practices tool even more useful and how your organization might be able to help. The punchline: I’m looking for at least 5 Michigan nonprofits of various sizes to help me test a new online version of Principals and Practices. Please keep reading if you are interested or know of an organization who might be a good fit.  I usually charge $500 for the customized reporting and consultation that I have created using this tool, but I am offering it for free to 5 select Michigan nonprofit organizations who are good candidates to test it November 7-18.

So here’s some more background on P&P. Versions of the Principles and Practices tool are used around the country. The Michigan version was last updated in 2009. In 2016 MNA wanted to revisit Principles and Practices to make sure it reflected the most current needs of the Michigan nonprofit community.  Recently, I connected with MNA and shared how I use Principles & Practices at the beginning stages of strategic planning with clients. For me and my clients, using Principles and Practices is an efficient way to surface a nonprofit organization’s “strengths, realities, risks, and to do’s” as I call them.

Principles and Practices is quite comprehensive (and some even might call it overwhelming).  The latest draft version has 161 questions in these 12 areas of nonprofit management including:

  • Governance
  • Leadership and Organizational Culture (new section)
  • Planning
  • Financial Management
  • Fundraising
  • Human Resources (expanded section)
  • Strategic Alliances
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Civic Engagement and Public Policy
  • Evaluation
  • Volunteer Management
  • Information Technology

The 2009 version of Principals and Practices was a 58 page pdf document that was unwieldy for board and staff members to take. It was also a very manual process to score. I started using Google sheets to help record responses and tally scores, but that wasn’t the best user experience with so many different sections.  For the latest version I am experimenting with Typeform which is a really flexible online survey tool. (I find it more elegant and flexible than Survey Monkey.)  One nice thing about Typeform is that you can add different point values for different questions. For example, an organization could earn +2 points if they answer “always” and +1 point if they answer “sometimes” to a question like:

“Our nonprofit established and regularly reviews our mission, vision and values statements that are specific enough to effectively guide the overall goals and activities of the organization and if they still meet the evolving needs of the organization’s constituents and the public. Plans should align with the organization’s mission, vision and values.” (Governance section)


“Our nonprofit leaders push the organization to make difficult and timely decisions, challenge others in the organization when necessary, and permit conflicting views to be expressed on the way to reaching resolution.” (Leadership and Organizational Culture section)

There can also be stricter scoring penalties for legal and financial requirements like filing 990’s, not permitting loans to board members, not spending restricted donations in accordance with donor intent, etc.

Testing: How YOU can Help!

If your organization is interested in helping me test this tool, here is what it would entail.  Executive Directors would need to ask your staff members and at least a subset of board members to take the survey using an online link. The survey should take 30-45 minutes to complete.  I am looking for representation from organizations of the following sizes:

  • an all volunteer organization
  • an organization with 1-5 staff members
  • another with 6-19 staff members
  • another with 20-74 staffers
  • an organization with more than 75 staffers

I am also looking for a good mix organizations representing health & human services, arts & culture, education, environment, etc. As part of the testing, I am looking for specific feedback on how useful the tool is to your organization and what changes might make it even more helpful. After reviewing the results, I will provide each participating organization with 1-2 summary reports on your organization’s responses in an electronic format.  I will get these reports to you in December.  Bonus: For the organization that provides the most helpful feedback, I will offer an in person presentation at a board meeting if that is feasible from a travel and scheduling perspective. That would be more likely to occur in early 2017.

So, if your organization is interested in participating, please call me directly at 734-548-7710 or email me at Please feel free to use the share buttons below to forward this to colleagues or organizations who might be interested. Thanks in advance!

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Stephanie Blackburn Freeth is the creator of The Strategy Tango.


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