Knowing Your Organization

Assessing Sustainability

sustainabilityWhether you are a business, a charitable organization, or an association, the relationships you have with customers, donors, or members is critical to continued success. That relationship needs to be one which builds loyalty. At the root of success is the loyalty of those, in many cases employees, within the organization to the mission. A lack of employee loyalty may result in the inability to achieve goals and dysfunctional communication. Morale and culture issues may develop. On an overall basis, there is no alignment of systems, people, and strategy.


I recently had an experience which illustrates a lack of alignment. Several months ago, I attended aassessment fund raising breakfast for a local charity. It was a very nice affair and at the end they asked for contributions. We were given a pledge form with options of either charging a credit card or sending a check. I chose to use a credit card, filled in the required information and handed it to our table captain.  Several months later, I received a letter from the executive director which I initially thought was a thank you note. Instead, it was a request to pay my long overdue pledge. It stated that they had tried to contact me unsuccessfully several times. I was dismayed by the letter, because no one had tried to contact me and I was unaware there was any issue. I decided to call and determine what happened. The staff person, who answered the phone, looked up my records and indicated that the problem was an inability to read the credit card numbers I had written. I read off the number to staffer and the issue was resolved. I asked why I was sent a letter of that nature. She responded that everyone with an issue received the same letter. There clearly was no alignment between people, strategy and process. Having worked with several charitable organizations I understand, but maybe next year there will be a reluctance to attend that breakfast.

How do you know that your organization has a high level of employee loyalty and that everyone is on the same page? How do you know that there is an alignment of strategy, people and process? How do you know that you customers, donors, or members are loyal to your organization in part because of the relationships they have with your people. Please consider an internal assessment.

Value of an Internal Assessment 

A good assessment identifies connections and disconnections. In the example above, there was a disconnect between the fund raising strategy and the process of resolving payment issues. Furthermore, the staff immediately recognized the disconnect, but followed an ineffective process. The assessment lets the leadership know if everyone is on the same page. This disconnect may be between department or even people within a department. It can also identify strengths and weaknesses in an organization as seen by its people. For example:

  • Leadership- How do the employees see the management?
  • Strategic Plan- Do we have one and is it well communicated and followed?
  • Customer Focus-Are all areas and departments in the organization trying to do what is best for the customer?
  • Measurement Systems-Is performance measured in a fair and accurate manner?
  • Human Resources-Do we have the appropriate staff and skills to perform well?
  • Process Management-Are systems in place to produce consistent quality?
  • Business Results-What results are being accomplished?
  • Sustainability-Is our organization sustainable, not just green? 

Gathering the Data 

A good internal survey collects both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data is raw data and usually is in the form of numbers. It is collected by asking close-ended questions of those involved. Qualitative data is somewhat subjective. It represents opinions or the perceptions of those involved. This information is developed though personal interviews. Both types of data are needed to do an analysis and reach conclusions.

When To Do An Internal Assessment 

Organizations use internal assessment as a tool at several points in time. The first is when fact finding is required. If, when assessing the state of their organization, the conversation includes phases such as “I think” or “I believe” it is time to replace opinion with fact. The second is during an organizational development process, because it helps focus on where the work needs to be done. The third is during a strategic planning process. Here it can provide information in the Situational Analysis or Steps in the Action Plan. Finally some organizations use it as part of an annual report card. It provides them with a means of understanding any changes in the culture of the organization.

Remember that these assessments are not like an audit. These are a means of better understanding the culture of the organization and its impact on sustainability.  To learn more, contact us at RLS Focused Solutions (910) 575-1286 or email