The Operations Cookbook Initative

Update: The Operations Cookbook is on hiatus

A team of us (Ken Montenegro, Josh Black, Rachel Kahn, and Lisa Jervis) spent months formulating the best way to approach such a broad initiative and also how to ensure that it wouldn’t become a one-time exercise that led to stale information. In the end, the process was more than what we could resolve with limited time and resources, so we have regretfully put the project aside.

  • We still believe a cookbook initiative would yield great value to the nonprofit sector, but we feel the following elements would help such a project succeed:
  • Funding to pay someone to coordinate and wrangle content;
  • Time and funds to solicit and manage submissions;
  • Community interest and participation in a clear planning process to define the scope of the cookbook so that there are shared expectations (e.g. recipes about on-boarding workflows but not general HR policies or practices);
  • Funding to support contributors meeting and engaging in peer review;
  • Funding for long-term curation and maintenance;
  • Funding for infrastructure to ensure the cookbook is available long-term (e.g. web-hosting, CMS maintenance).

We don’t believe this initiative is dead: it is only on hiatus. We would be very interested in convening with the Ops Cookbook Community to figure out how we can remedy or mitigate the obstacles we encountered.

If you are interested in reviving the project, please reach out! We would be thrilled to share the artifacts of our work for someone else to pick up.


About the initiative and our original plan

Operations staff are often the unsung backbone of the nonprofit sector. In small to medium mission-driven organizations, the important work of office management, finance, technology, human resources, and facilities is often performed by people with limited expertise and infrastructure. These activities are all too often seen simply as overhead, off to the side of the real work of programs. But there is nothing simple about them, and they are key to organizational success. They are the container that holds all the work of the mission; when a container is too small or not resilient enough, important things fall out and break.

We* feel it is time to build collective knowledge in this area so that all of our containers for mission-driven work can be more resilient. To that end, we want to build a community of operations practitioners that can come together to compile a cookbook of various operations practices from across the nonprofit community; this group will document them, peer review them, and make them freely available.

The project plan as currently conceived looks like:

  • Survey our communities through mid-January 2018 (DONE!)
  • Present needs assessment findings back to our communities in March 2018 in the form of a proposed content map (DONE!)
  • Collect feedback on the proposed content map (DONE!)
  • Explore sources of funding (Current/ongoing)
  • Curate and generate resources that meet community needs, recruit further participation (Current/ongoing)
  • Host a collaborative editing and curation sprint (Date TBD)
  • Launch the Operations Cookbook 1.0 (Date TBD)

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey and spent time talking to us!

If you’re interested in helping us build this collective knowledge, here are ways you can get involved:

  •  Check out the list of resources suggested by the community so far at
  • Tell us what you think by leaving comments and/or or voting for the items you think are most important (instructions to do this are at the link)
  • Do you have an operations resource that would be useful for the project? You can submit content at or via email at Please note: Anything shared via these methods may be visible to others. We cannot guarantee the security of any submissions, so please do not include any confidential, private, or otherwise non-public data in your documents.
  • Let us know by emailing if you are interested in being involved with peer-reviewing, editing, or producing new content, or helping fund this project.

If you have questions, please email us at

*We are Aspiration Technology, Information Ecology, and Ken Montenegro, and Rachel Kahn.