Program Development

Getting a program off the ground is a challenging undertaking, to say the least. Whether the program concept is generated elsewhere, or comes from an in-house idea, it is important to develop a written charter. At a minimum, such a document should include: a) an outline for the need and a rationale based on solid data, b) identification of the target audience or clientele, c) a review of the literature or related programming outlining what the state of the art or best practices are, d) a summary of the major operating principles and procedures, e) a budget and staffing plan, f) a summary of expected outcomes, and g) a chart with projected tasks and timelines.

That is just the start! There are a number of other elements of program development that are crucial to the success or failure of a concept. One aspect that is often overlooked is developing a plan to promote the concept and to deal with possible opposition to the project.

Another important element is developing funding submissions that are tailored to the specific needs and requirements of various funders. This is one instance where �one size does not fit all!�

Once funding is obtained, it is crucial to have the program run successfully. Since most programs start as pilot projects or are under a microscope in their first year of existence, showing good results is crucial. For that to happen an organization needs to put clear policies and procedures in place, train staff and supervisors, have a monitoring or evaluation system, and have a feedback system to fine-tune the program along the way.

CANmanagement can help your organization with any or all of these tasks.

Policies and Procedures

We are often struck by the lack of clear guidelines for staff to do their jobs. While most new staff members get an orientation, especially inexperienced staff often have to find out from longer term staff or from trial and error how things are done. Expectations and rules are frequently not spelled out in any detail.

Policy manuals are the basis of clarifying the basic principles and rules to staff, managers, and governing bodies. Not only does a good set of policies take the guess work out of operating, it also provides the organization and staff with a hedge against arbitrary disciplinary action, unnecessary disputes, and possibly litigation.

Take confidentiality, for instance. There are now at least a dozen laws that govern the collection, use, release, storage, and destruction of personal and health information for some public or non-profit organizations operating in Manitoba. An organization that does not have clear confidentiality rules is at risk of serious fines and public scorn if found to be in violation of any of the Acts or Regulation.


Crises are part of life, personal and organizational. While crises can strike at any time and in any form, preparedness is a major ingredient in handling a crisis effectively. Developing policies and training staff to be better prepared for disasters is preventative, both in building confidence and in physical readiness. Making up the rules during a crisis is not the way to go!

When a crisis happens, it is nice to have an experienced and objective outsider as part of the crisis management team. Sharing circles to debrief emotional distress in staff and consumers is one way of handling the fallout of disaster. Developing strategies for the management of the public aspects of a crisis is also often necessary.

Crises are usually viewed as negative. However, when the inevitable happens, it can help organizations develop stronger bonds with their constituents and their staff. An organization that successfully conquers a problem is usually better for it in the long run. It pays, therefore, to use crises in constructive ways. To paraphrase a Chinese expression: there is opportunity in danger.


Staff are an organization�s backbone. Having a well-trained staff is the most effective way of delivering good services. Having a well-trained and highly motivated staff is the most effective way of providing the best services.

Contrary to popular belief, not-for-profit organizations and government departments are usually not rich in internal financial resources. Thus it imperative to stretch the training dollar as far as possible. Not only that, but having an effective system of monitoring staff morale and of non-monetarily rewarding excellence is often one of the few ways managers can boost staff effectiveness.

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence or proficiency is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables them to work in cross-cultural situations. The following is a brief excerpt from: Ambtman, R., Hartry, R., Hudson, S., and MacKay-Chiddenton, D.(submitted for publication). Promoting System-Wide Cultural Competence for Serving Aboriginal Families and Children in a Mid-sized Canadian City.

The Child Welfare League of America (Malik and Velazquez Jr., 2002) asserts:

The continuum of cultural competence developed by Cross (1988) helps agencies as well as individuals assess where they are in their journey towards cultural competence. Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs (1989) state that the most negative stage, cultural destructiveness, is marked by �attitudes, policies and practices which are destructive to the culture and individuals within the culture� (p. 14). A slightly more advanced position, cultural incapacity, sees agencies �not intentionally seeking to be destructive, but lacking the capacity to help minority clients or communities. The system remains extremely biased and assumes a paternal posture towards �lesser� races� (p. 15). Cultural blindness is evident in agencies which adopt a philosophy of being unbiased. �They believe that colour or culture makes no difference and we are all the same� (p. 15) and therefore mainstream helping practices are efficacious across all cultures. Culturally pre-competent agencies �realize their weaknesses in serving minorities and attempt to improve some aspects of their services to specific populations� (p. 16). Culturally competent agencies are characterized by �acceptance of and respect for difference and employ a variety of service models in order to better meet the needs of minority populations� (Cross, 1988, p. 2). Culturally proficient agencies hold culture in high esteem. Few agencies today would claim advanced cultural competence or proficiency. At this point culture is valued and the agency �seeks to add to the knowledge base of culturally competent practice by conducting research, developing new therapeutic approaches based on culture, and publishing and disseminating the results� (p. 2). Cross et al. (1989) conclude that �attitudes, policies and practice are three major areas in which development must occur if an agency is to move towards cultural competence� (p. 17).

Cross, T. (1988, Fall). Cultural competence continuum. Focal Point, the bulletin of the Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children�s Mental Health, Portland State University, 3(1). Cross, T. L., Bazron, B. J., Dennis, K. W., & Isaacs, M. R. (1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care: A monograph on effective services for minority children who are severely emotionally disturbed: Volume 1. Washington DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center. Malik, S., & Velazquez Jr., J. (2002 , July/August). Cultural competence and the �New Americans.� Retrieved December 12, 2006 from Child Welfare League of America Web site:

Strategic Planning

There are a variety of models and methods of strategic planning. What they all have in common is a focus on the future. They ask the questions: Where do we want this organization to be three years, five years, or ten years from now? How will we get there?

Strategic planning is all about dreaming and making those dreams a reality. Does your organization dare to dream? Do you have concrete and feasible annual objectives to work towards that dream? Are your organization�s staff members aware of the goals and objectives and do they believe that they are working towards them?

Not all dreams come to pass, but an organization working towards clearly defined goals has a better future and better staff morale. Moreover, the chance of accomplishing certain objectives is much better if they are stated than if they are left unmentioned.

Board Support

Non-profit boards are curious bodies. They are often made up of people who are highly committed to the mandate of the organization, but who have little or no experience working for or operating an organization in that type of sector. This is in contrast to the business world, where boards are usually populated by business people.

For the not-for-profit sector, this seems to work. It certainly brings diversity to the decision making process. However, the lack of industry specific experience of most board members does make adequate board preparation and support highly desirable. Training in the principles of board membership is also a must. Without it, boards tend to be unsure of their roles vis-�-vis the CEO and tend to want to micro-manage the organization.

Most boards, even those functioning under the Policy Governance model, tend to become involved in the political process. Lobbying for the organization or its constituents often becomes necessary and desirable. Non-profit boards, as a diverse group of citizens, are in an ideal position to speak up for their �cause.� How to do that effectively is an art that boards need to learn before embarking on a lobbying venture.