Thursday, October 4, 2007

Creating High-Impact Non Profits

Link to Article

Check out this article in the Fall 2007 Stanford Social Innovation Review. The authors have identified and studied 12 high impact non profits. The secret of their success – enlisting and inspiring partners outside of their organizations, rather than focusing on strengthening internal operations.

Conventional Myths of Nonprofit Management

They discovered that the conventional wisdom did not hold up, these non profits with high impact did not achieve this by building a great organization and scaling it up. They found the following myths:

Myth # 1 – Perfect Management. Although adequate management is necessary, it is not sufficient for creating significant social impact.

Myth # 2 – Brand-Name Awareness. For some of the 12 high impact non profits traditional mass marketing is part of their strategy for others it is unimportant.

Myth # 3 – A Breakthrough New Idea. Although some had new ideas, others take old ideas and tweak them until they are successful.

Myth # 4 – Textbook Mission Statement. All of the groups have compelling missions and visions, but only a few spent time fine-tuning their mission statements on paper, they are living it.

Myth # 5 – High Ratings on Conventional Metrics. When traditional measures of nonprofit efficiency were used these groups didn’t often score well – because they don’t adhere to misleading metrics such as overhead ratios. Efficiency doesn’t cause high impact.

Myth # 6 – Large Budgets. The size of the budget doesn’t correlate with impact, many of the 12 have achieved high impact with small budgets.

Six Practices of the High-Impact Nonprofits

What do they do, these high impact nonprofits? The practice the majority of the following six practices:

1. Serve and Advocate: not just one or the other. Neither provision of services or advocacy alone is enough to generate high impact.

2. Make Markets Work: tapping into forces beyond conventional definitions of charity they have influenced business practices, built corporate partnerships, and developed earned-income ventures to achieve social change on a grand scale.

3. Inspire Evangelists: inspiring supporters who become evangelists for the effort.

4. Nurture Nonprofit Networks: high impact nonprofits achieve their impact through collaboration not competition – and they help their peers succeed, build networks of nonprofit allies, and devote time and energy to advancing their fields.

5. Master the Art of Adaptation: high impact nonprofits are exceptionally adaptive modifying strategies, testing new ones, and evaluating results to identify new adaptations.

6. Share Leadership. Leadership is not dependent on one person, but distributed leadership is evident throughout the organization and among board members and volunteers.

Want to know more? Check out the full article.

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