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Decision-Making Best Practices for Nonprofits


Do you ever have meetings that end with everyone agreeing that something should change, but then nothing changes? Maybe a department head makes the case for hiring a new team member, and everyone agrees in principle, but no one goes on to initiate the hiring process. Or someone presents a preliminary plan for a fundraiser that everyone agrees is good, but no one in the room has the authority to approve it and begin the next steps.

If this is your situation, you have a failure of decision-making. It's always frustrating. However, in times of crisis like the present, it can be even more serious. Supply chain failures and other COVID-19-related flashpoints mean companies need to think on their feet. That's why nonprofits should establish the RAPID system to decide who has what decision-making powers in what situations.

How RAPID works

In the RAPID system, everyone in the organization is assigned a letter that represents his or her rights and responsibilities in the decision-making process. Management creates a grid of all stakeholders in the organization and their roles in each type of decision the company faces. The roles are:

  • R: Recommend. Initiates the decision-making process and participates in it from start to finish by approaching the other stakeholders and pitching the idea to them.
  • I: Input. Someone whose opinion is important but who has no power to vote on or veto the idea.
  • A: Agree. Either someone who must assent to the idea or someone who may vote on it. May agree conditionally if certain changes are made.
  • D: Decide. Aggregates the votes and initiates the execution of the plan.
  • P: Perform. Acting on the D stakeholder's instruction, P stakeholders carry out the plan. In most cases, I and P stakeholders will be the same people.

If done correctly, a decision-making structure involves all impacted parties. In certain cases, using it can invite debate and challenge the status quo. In others, it can accelerate the decision-making process, bringing everyone closer to the goal in less time. In some cases, it may well do both; creating focused meetings with all relevant stakeholders can facilitate both discussion and action.

Once a decision is made, it is important that the entire organization supports it, including I and A stakeholders who may have been against it. Make sure that all stakeholders are posted on the process of execution and allocate the team the resources it needs.

Mapping out the decision-making process for an organization can be a cumbersome and awkward process, as informal roles are formalized. Expect arguments as the power structure in the organization is codified and clarified. However, if done correctly, it can make planning and executing a decision much easier.

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