How to Develop a Philosophy of Service Delivery for Non-Profits

A philosophy of service delivery sounds rather abstract when the work is direct client service to a person seeking solutions to very basic needs. However, it is this philosophy that provides guiding principles that inform and determine all decisions for the services offered and the way in which the services are provided. If it is a faith-based non-profit, there are additional items that need to be discussed.

It is the board’s responsibility to develop this philosophy of service delivery so that all management and staff have the same clear understanding of expectations of them in developing and providing services to their client population.

Key Components of a Philosophy of Service Delivery

There are four key components to consider in developing a philosophy of service for a non-profit organization. These are listed below with some examples of key words that could serve as discussion points. These are common to all non-profits, including faith-based organizations.

Service characteristics. This is a description of the core values underlying the actual services that are offered to clients. For example, the services are holistic, inclusive, accessible, and client focused. It is often useful to include how many times or for what duration it can be provided to one client; e.g. one grocery bag a month from food cupboard, or limit of six months stay at shelter for women fleeing abuse .

Client description. There are often assumptions made about the client population. A discussion about philosophy of service delivery is an opportunity to clarify what is meant. For example, the agency might provide emergency shelter to both men and women, but it does not accommodate a couple as a couple; they have to go to separate wings of the building. Another example could be the need to clarify whether access to an an after-school homework club is determined by age or school grade.

Service delivery description. This is a statement of how the services are actually provided to the clients. For example, there might be a basic principle that client choice determines the actual services, or there could be agreement that clients are to be empowered to act on their own, not to become dependent on the service agency or individual staff.

Expected client outcomes. Most non-profit organizations these days are outcome-based. This means that they do not just look at the kind and number of services offered, but they consider the outcome for the client. For example, did the support service of that housing worker result in the homeless family accessing appropriate, affordable housing and maintaining it for at least two years? Or, is the mentally ill client who is working in a sheltered workshop now able to earn enough so he can afford a decent apartment and a few small luxuries in life?

Issues Specific to Faith-Based Non-Profit Service Providers

There is one other element that some organizations might want to explore. It is particularly important in a faith-based non-profit that there are clear statements about the role of faith incorporated in this philosophy of service delivery. Discussion might center on the following points.

Specific services that are faith-related. For example, there might be a chaplain on staff or a spiritual director available.

Expectations of staff that are related to the faith-based mission of the organization. For example, staff are expected to profess and live according to the precepts of Christian faith.

Expectations of clients that are related to the faith base of the non-profit organization. For example, clients in an addiction treatment program have to attend chapel services on Sundays.

Funding restrictions because of faith-based mission. For example, the organization might not access funding raised through lotteries. Or, a funder might not want to fund a faith-based non-profit if it appears that their money is being used to proselytize. Sometimes, government funders have their own philosophies of service delivery that have to be examined for consistency with that of the non-profit agency they are funding. cek tarif indah cargo

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Process for Developing the Philosophy of Service Delivery

The board has to accept that this is an important task, and they need to take the time and make the effort to develop a meaningful, useful statement of philosophy. Senior management should be involved in discussing and making decisions about this philosophy of service delivery. The following steps can help organize the process.

Engage an external person to facilitate the board discussion.

Schedule at least two 90-minutes sessions for this important task.

Develop a list of items to discuss, much like the list above.

Identify a phrase or two that captures the key value or position for each item, thinking of staff, clients, community partners, and funders.

Form those phrases into statements that can be reference points for developing a program/service, or for reprimanding staff for not providing appropriate service to a client, or for explaining to a community partner why you allow or don’t allow certain activities.

These statements should be as clear and succinct as possible.

Each statement has to be analyzed in terms of the impact on all stakeholders. It is important that the board and senior management talk through the implications of each tenet of their service delivery philosophy. There has to be a decision about whether or not this is the desired impact or outcome for staff, clients, community partners, and funders, including donors.

When the product is ready, it is necessary that all board members and senior management understand, accept, and are prepared to live by this philosophy. If this has not been discussed in a long time, it is quite possible that a board member or two will decide that this is not what they signed on for. It is also possible that one or more of the senior management team might not be comfortable with the expectations and implications of this philosophy of service delivery.

Without a shared understanding of, and commitment to this philosophy of service delivery, management and staff at all levels will have difficulty working collaboratively with each other, with community service partners, and with clients to achieve the mission of the organization.

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