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Making Critical Decisions: A Practical Guide for Nonprofit Organizations

ISBN: 978-0-470-18503-2
250 pages
October 2007, Jossey-Bass
Making Critical Decisions: A Practical Guide for Nonprofit Organizations (0470185031) cover image


Roberta Snow and Paul Phillips present a clear and structured way to manage the challenges of limited resources, competing demands, and the need for accountability while remaining true to a nonprofit’s mission.  Making Critical Decisions offers nonprofit leaders a proven model for making hard choices that minimize risks while maintaining progress toward the organization’s goals as well as a practical framework for understanding and implementing the decision-making process. The book includes qualitative and quantitative tools and offers illustrative case examples throughout that clearly show how this method can be applied to different types of nonprofit organizations.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Exhibits.


The Authors.



1. The Art and Science of Decision Making: Putting Theory into Practice.

What Works.

What Doesn't Work.

Reacting Versus Responding.

Responding Versus Reacting.

2. Borrowing from Business: Due Diligence in Decision Making.

What Investors Do.

Defining Due Diligence.

Staging Implementation to Reduce Risk.

A Consistent Approach to Critical Decisions.

3. Managing Critical Decisions: The Who, What, and How.

Who Decides.

What Choices.

How Do You Put It All Together.

4. Enter the Matrix: Introducing an Effective Tool.

The Matrix: Framing the Decision.

The Rows: Weighting the Due Diligence Criteria.

The Columns: Scoring the Due Diligence Criteria.

Using the Matrix for Binary Decisions.

Using the Matrix for Choices Among Similar Options.

Using the Matrix for Choices Among Dissimilar Options.


5. Stage One: Feasibility.

The Seductive Nature of New Ideas.

Common Feasibility Decisions.

The Feasibility Matrix.

6. Stage Two: Pilot.

Piloting the Feasible Decision.

Designing the Pilot Project.

The Pilot Matrix.

7. Stage Three: Implementation.

From Pilot to Implementation.

A Good Implementation Plan.

The Implementation Matrix.

8. Stage Four: Cutback.

Dimensions of Cutting Back.

The Cutback Matrix.

9. Putting the Matrix to Work.

Boards of Directors.

Executive Directors.




10. The Decision-Making Guide.

Assessing the Decision.

Working Through the Matrix.

Appendix: Staff Renewal Decisions.


Further Reading.


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Author Information

Roberta M. Snow is a professor of management at West Chester University and former director of Nonprofit Management and Leadership Programs at the University of Pennsylvania.

Paul H. Phillips is a consultant with nonprofit organizations and manufacturing companies and a former partner at KPMG. He works with organizations on enhancing the efficiency of their infrastructure and on developing methodologies to optimize their operating assets.

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New to This Edition

  • Provides an overall method for making hard choices that minimizes risks while maintaining progress toward the group's goals
  • Outlines a model for understanding the opportunities, costs and risks associated with introducing or expanding projects and programs
  • Contains qualitative and quantitative tools for implementing the authors' recommended methodology
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