As the congressional budget debates rage on about which programs should receive federal funding and which should be cut, it's a good idea for nonprofits to take another look at who stands to win and who to lose. Through stakeholder analysis, organizations can better understand those who are affected by their work. Through this process, nonprofits can also expand their relationships with both those who actively support them now and with those who reap the rewards of their labors and may become supporters later on.
When we think of nonprofit stakeholders, though we tend to be shortsighted -- we usually think first of the people we serve and then perhaps our volunteers and funders. But your stakeholder pool can be so much deeper than that.
What is a Stakeholder?
The dictionary defines stakeholder as “a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry.” While nonprofits do not generate financial profit per se, they certainly have the ability to create added value for a community. It is this added value, or perception thereof, that converts a simple bystander to someone with an interest who might be willing to make an investment. Although not all stakeholders are active supporters right now, they are the most natural people to reach out to.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
In order to develop a deeper understanding of who might make up your stakeholder posse, it helps to split them into categories. You can create and label your own groups, based on their unique relationships with your organization. These categories are helpful, but if others work better, use them instead:
1) Clients -- These are the folks who receive direct service from your organization. This also includes family members and caregivers who might approach you for help. If you are not a direct service organization, your clients could be those who stand to most directly benefit from your work.
2) Funders/Authorizers -- These are the entities, both public and private, that help provide the resources necessary to get the job done. They also include any entity that authorizes or mandates your existence. For example, if you are an Area Agency on Aging, the state department of aging and the federal legislature os both a funder and an authorizer of your program, because it is mandated by law.
3) Managers/Enablers -- Anyone who is responsible for management and oversight of your agency or program falls into this category. They can be paid staff or volunteers. Most people don’t recognize the program manager as a stakeholder, but do they have a vested interest the program's success? You bet; their job depends on it.
4) Producers/Partners -- This group is comprised of both people internal to your organization, such as staff and volunteers, as well as external to it, such as community partners who are directly involved in some way with the organization’s day-to-day business.
5) Community -- Finally, community stakeholders might include partner organizations with whom you have a loose affiliations. They also include local community members and others who indirectly benefits from your work. For example, taxpayers may benefit from a local youth employment and training program because of increased educational attainment and, therefore, reduced teen crime rates.
Once you have identified your stakeholder groups, identify which kinds of subgroups make up the larger categories. Not all stakeholders care about the same things. So, once you have these subcategories identified, consider what each group cares about. What are their specific interests and priorities? How can you more effectively engage them? What information do they need from you? Who have you left out?
There are a number of things you can do with this stakeholder analysis that will help you further your organization's goals:
- You can check to see who you are ignoring and rectify the situation.
- You can better craft communications messages directly to the people who care most about your work.
- You can develop new performance measures or focus your attention on the outcomes that make the most sense.
- You can be more strategic in selecting potential community partners who actually have a stake in what you do.
These are just a few ways to take a deeper view of your stakeholders and to use this analysis to strengthen your program. What do you think?