A for-profit company can look at its bottom line to see if it is profitable. It can consider the percentage return on assets and its share price to evaluate how it is doing. Members of a non-profit board need to consider other factors. What should they be?
The Eliot Board supervises the business side of our Eliot camps and we have done those tasks quite well in recent years -- filling our camps, paying our bills, and getting positive evaluations from a high percentage of campers. We can credit our outstanding staff and the quality and dedication of our board members for those accomplishments. Our good relationship with Seabeck Conference Center, our primary host facility, is also an important factor.
Doing a good job of handling Eliot business matters does not, however, ensure that we fulfill our mission or operate according to our values. Taking care of business helps to ensure we are sustainable, but does not guarantee that we make the world a better place or achieve other higher aspirations. What is our vision for the future and how might we achieve it? What should our long-range plan be?
Here are some factors we could consider:
- How many lives are we impacting? Do we have an expanding number of unique participants?
- Do campers have learning and religious experiences unlikely to be found elsewhere?
- When do complaints and failures indicate bad decisions as compared to reasonable risk-taking and opportunities for individuals and the organization to learn and grow?
- Do speakers and camp staff gain experiences that help them in their careers and personal lives?
- Is our program sustainable into future generations?
- Do we serve those in need or only those already leading comfortable lives?
- Does our camp reflect and enhance our Unitarian Universalist principles?
These questions offer alternative ways of evaluating success, but may be hard to measure. As the Eliot Board considers how best to use its scholarship fund, the new endowment fund, and suggestions for new camps, it's important to clarify our vision for the future and to find the tools to measure our success.
What should success look like for Eliot Institute? How will you help us achieve it? Feel free to share your ideas through the Eliot website, our Facebook page, old-fashioned letters, or e-mail to the board.
Eliot Board and Staff, January 2014