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Tips on scaling youth-focused nonprofit programs effectively

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Wherever your nonprofit’s mission lies, growing your impact and increasing your reach by scaling up programs and adding new services is a long-term commitment that takes planning, resources, and a little bit of luck to accomplish. If you think your team is ready to begin reaching new users with existing programs, or adding new services targeting underserved populations, here are a few things to consider.

Understand your users and identify a need

Nonprofit leaders know that the most important part of serving their community is developing a clear and constantly developing understanding of the people you serve. To measure success, it’s important to both identify who you want to serve and ensure the population is well defined. Before launching new products and services, it’s important to collect feedback from those who currently access your services, including asking what needs may still be unmet and how you can best meet them. This is similarly important in scaling up existing service areas and programs. When you have the opportunity to add new resources, in time, money, and planning, to an existing program, make sure you’re scaling up in the right areas, at the right times, and with the right services to meet the needs of your population. This is especially important when serving youth –both because it can be more difficult to collect feedback directly from these participants and because young adults can be some of your most active voices in promoting the program’s changes to their own networks. Ensuring you are meeting the needs of your youngest users will help ensure your scaling plans are a success.

Evaluate whether your program is ‘scale ready’

It is also important to evaluate your current program and ensure you are in the right place to begin scaling up. If you discover problems, in staffing, other resources, negative feedback from users, or in other areas –it’s best to put your growth plans on hold and strengthen your current model. Rolling out new services and growing your youth program’s current footprint is best done when your team, resources, and long-term plan are strong. If there are problem areas, scaling up will only make them worse. If your team is not currently tracking and evaluating key performance indicators and collecting and responding to feedback continuously, these are important elements to add to your program before you begin to scale up.

Strengthen your network and partner up

One way to scale a program quickly and efficiently is to partner up. The best way to find the ‘perfect partner is to expand and strengthen your network. Spending time to understand who else is serving youth and families within your community and in your own service areas will help you identify good agencies and other nonprofits to partner with. Ensuring you have similar missions, service areas, people served and long-term growth plans is also key. Working together to scale up can help minimize the burden on each nonprofit’s internal team and allow the sharing of best practices along the way. Change is hard and scary, but doing it together can be exciting and rewarding for each organization.

Build and share toolkits

Once you’ve learned how to scale programs successfully, whether that’s adding new service areas, opening new in-person or virtual locations, or expanding your reach to new areas –documenting and sharing your lessons learned will help you scale even more effectively in the future. Create a toolkit that offers guidance, sample materials, and lessons learned to help your team members and partners scale in the future.

Ask for help

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Scaling a youth-focused program is difficult, but it’s a challenge that many others have experienced before you. Reach out to colleagues in your network and learn from their experiences. Don’t be afraid to tap your team members, volunteers, and those you serve for feedback along the way, and be flexible –ready to change your plans when needed to ensure long-term success.

Our solution helps nonprofit youth-focused programs scale by providing an all-in-one tool to manage programs, community, and content. The average organization uses 5+ tools to manage programs, we aim to streamline everything in one place. Learn more here.

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