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The Habits Of High Impact Nonprofits

Forces_for_good_2_2 The Stanford Social Innovation Review has an excellent article summarizing the findings of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Heather McLeod Grant and Leslie Crutchfield.

Chronicling four years of research into 12 highly successful nonprofits, including Teach for America and Habitat for Humanity, the book dispels some common myths about what makes a nonprofit successful, as well as identifying six successful practices.

The Myths and Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits
According to McLeod Grant and Crutchfield, most nonprofit literature focuses on issues that actually have nothing to do with creating a high impact nonprofit--what they call the myths of successful nonprofits:

  1. Perfect Management
  2. High Brand Name Recognition
  3. A Break-through Idea
  4. Textbook Mission Statements
  5. High Ratings on Conventional Metrics
  6. Large Budgets

Instead, real nonprofit impact is the result of six practices:

  • Combining both service and policy advocacy
  • Tapping into the powers of the market, self-interest and economics rather than relying on altruism alone.
  • Building strong communities of supporters who can act as evangelists for the organization and the cause.
  • Nurturing the creation of networks.
  • Learning how to be exceptionally adaptive, responding immediately to changes as they occur.
  • Sharing leadership rather than relying on the charisma of a strong founder.

Not all of the 12 nonprofits studied used all of these practices, nor did they use them in the same ways. In some cases they used them to different degrees and at different times, depending on their particular circumstances and development.

What's striking about these findings is that the "myths" of nonprofit success are based on inward-focusing practices, while the practices that really lead to high impact force nonprofits to look outside of their organizations to leverage external factors. These are also practices that work better in a 2.0 world where networks, adaptability and harnessing the power of the crowd are critical to success. The lessons these nonprofits are learning are lessons that businesses are learning, too.

Some interesting info here that's well worth a look. Looks like I have a new book to add to my reading list.


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