Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What High-Impact Nonprofit Groups Do…

Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant have gotten some great press for their recent book, Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, which examines 12 successful organizations including Environmental Defense, City Year, and YouthBuild USA.

In fact, Ms. Crutchfield will be leading a high profile panel that takes its title from John Elkington’s latest book, The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing the World, on March 3 at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's JFK School.

A Chronicle of Philanthropy profile noted that the authors expected their research into successful non-profit organizations to confirm the notion that charities could thrive by modeling themselves after their for-profit counterparts. What they found was something a little different, and the following are some of the traits identified in Forces for Good that distinguish vibrant organizations from those that are less effective.

What High-Impact Nonprofit Groups Do:

  • Use leverage to change entire systems
  • Do whatever it takes--short of compromising core values
  • Engage outsiders in meaningful experiences
  • Build long-term relationships
  • Nurture networks of nonprofits
  • Constantly adapt and balance creativity with structure
  • Empower others to lead and take action
  • Invest in the basics: people, fundraising, and systems

What Less-Effective Groups Do:

  • Focus exclusively on their own organization
  • Only provide direct services, avoid politics
  • Treat volunteers as free labor or donors as check writers
  • See fellow nonprofits as competitors
  • Fear change, become mired in bureaucracy, or get overwhelmed with too many ideas
  • Maintain a command-and-control hierarchy and allow the CEO to be the "hero"