BEST PRACTICES OF HIGH-IMPACT NONPROFITS (PART II)


Cartoon_IIConventional wisdom says that scaling social innovation starts with strengthening internal management capabilities. However, real social change happens when organizations go outside their own walls and find creative ways to enlist the help of others


High impact nonprofits have mastered several basic management principles that are necessary to sustain their impact. These nonprofits are not so much ideological as they are focused on achieving greater impact. Here are three best practices that high impact nonprofits have mastered in order to achieve their goals.

 


 

4.Nurture Nonprofit Networks: High impact organizations help their peers succeed, building networks of nonprofit allies and devoting remarkable time and energy to advancing their fields. They freely share wealth, expertise, talent, and power with other nonprofits not because they are saints, but because it’s in their self-interest to do so. These nonprofits recognize that they are more powerful together than alone, and that large scale social change often requires collaborative, collective action.

 

The Heritage Foundation exemplifies this network mind-set. This organization realized that, to achieve its goals, it needed to build a movement, not just an organization. Today, Heritage’s Resource Bank – a network of state and local nonprofits – includes more than 2,000 member organizations. The Heritage Foundation helps leaders of these state and local nonprofits raise money and freely shares its donor list with like-minded groups. It also offers extensive programs to train non-Heritage policy analysts on everything from conservative strategies to public speaking skills. And Heritage cultivates talent – not only for its own organization, but also for other leading conservative groups – by offering a prestigious internship program and job-placement service for its young acolytes.

 

5. Master the Art of Adaptation: High-impact nonprofits are exceptionally adaptive, modifying their tactics as needed to increase their success. They have responded to changing circumstances with one innovation after another. Along the way, they’ve made mistakes and have even produced some flops. But unlike many nonprofits, they have also mastered the ability to listen, learn, and modify their approach on the basis of external cues. Adaptability has allowed them to sustain their impact.

 

Share Our Strength has been exceptionally adaptive. They started by mailing letters to food industry celebrities to raise money for hunger relief. Although they received a few checks, they found that professional chefs were much more enthusiastic about donating their time and talent to a local tasting event. After the success of a single event in Denver, Share Our Strength abandoned its direct mail campaign and launched the Taste of the Nation series – now a national success in more than 70 cities. It has raised millions of dollars for hunger relief, and many other nonprofits have copied it.

 

6. Share Leadership: The leaders of these high performance organizations all exhibit charisma, but they don’t have oversized egos. They know that they must share power in order to be stronger forces for good. They distribute leadership within their organizations and throughout their external nonprofit networks, empowering others to lead. Leaders of high-impact nonprofits cultivate a strong second-in-command, build enduring executive teams with long tenure, and develop large and powerful boards.

 

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is a great example of collective leadership in action. The Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit was founded in 1968 by a group of Hispanic leaders, and within its first decade it appointed Raul Yzaguirre as CEO. Yzaguirre led the nonprofit for more than 30 years of extraordinary growth. He quickly developed a cadre of strong and empowered senior executives, many of whom have been with the organization for decades and who have played critical leadership roles. Yzaguirre always had a second-in-command, or COO, who helped him with internal management while he focused on external leadership. And the NCLR board has learned to share power with the executive director. Even when Yzaguirre retired and was replaced by Janet Murguía, the organization maintained its leadership practices.

 

These nonprofits have also learned that they need to invest in their human resources. They aren’t afraid to invest in their own capacity – despite the countervailing public pressure to keep administrative ratios low. Although none of these basic management practices alone leads to breakthrough impact, a solid organizational foundation is essential to sustaining impact over time.