The book is a work of two pracademics – practical people who also do academic stuff - connected to Stanford and Harvard Universities who started with the question – what are the characteristics of High-impact nonprofits. What they mean by High-impact nonprofits? They were noticing a change in the sector A new way of entrepreneurial nonprofits Seeking to address the world’s problems working with and through government and businessLess importance was on the organizational type and more on the type of organizingRun by people now called social entrepreneursIndividuals and organizations seeking to create large-scale systemic change. So what did they do?They started work in 2004US organizationsFounded between 1965 and 1994 – so that they had been around for some time but not dinosaursExcluded membership orgs, churches and grant making foundationsThe criteria for inclusion was that…..came up with innovative solutions to pressing social problems and spread these nationally and internationally – results have created large-scale systemic change.Peer Survey of CEOs – 2800Whittled down to about 35 – 60 interviewsNarrowed down to 12 – variety of fields and sizes. They choose 12 organizations – that ranged in size with revenues of 13m up to 1bn – with organizations like Habitat for Humanity to Environmental Defence – Interviewed them, read their material, visited their different sitesDeveloped ideas and then road tested them with other CEOs/managers. So what did they find?
Something they didn’t expect. The traditional variables associated with nonprofit organizational success weren’t appearing as salient as perhaps once thought. Perfect Management – not particularly well managed in a traditional senseBrand-name awareness – few didn’t focus on marketing at all or had limited public awarenessBreakthrough new idea – many adapted old ideas and tweaked themTextbook mission statements – few of them spent time fine-tuning their mission statementsHigh ratings on conventional metrics – many didn’t score wellLarge budgets – varying budgets and all had different fundraising strategies.Their assumption that there was something inherent in these organizations that made them great was challenged. Instead that found a set of practices that they all seemed to engage in that revolved around a central strategic/organizational orientation.
These organizations majored on a strategy of leverageWorked with and through others to create more impact than they could achieve aloneThey worked to mobilize governments, business, other nonprofits and the public – to be forces for good – to help them deliver even greater change that they could possible achieve aloneAnother way of describing itThe worked as catalysts within systems to affect system change. Able to influence and transform others in order to do more with less.
The were found in invest in 6 practicesAdvocate and Serve - Work with government and advocate for policy change in addition to providing servicesMake Markets Work - Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner and not an enemyInspire Evangelists - Create meaningful experiences for individual supporters and convert them into evangelists for the causeNurture nonprofit networks - Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups not as competitors but as alliesMaster the art of adaptation - Adapt to the changing environment and be as innovative and nimble as they are strategicShare leadership - Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good. Cultivating a strong second-in-command, build executive teams with long tenure and develop highly engaged boards that eat Pizza. [I added the Pizza bit].
They do more than one of these practices – they build on each other – in mutual reinforcing ways
The implicationsThis meant that they couldSeed social movements and help to build entire fieldsShape government policy and change the way companies do businessEngage and mobilize millions of individuals and in doing so change public attitudesNurture large networks of nonprofits that collaborate rather than competeGreatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations that how they manage their own internal operations. The high impact nonprofits we studies are satifsifed with building a good enough organization and then spending their time and energy focused externally on catalyzing large-scale systemic change.Focus on results – describe as pragmatic idealism.
OK – back to the real world offunding insecurity – what might be the problems with this bookSmall sampleStill pretty large organizations – the smallest has revenues of $13mIt is a rather narrow conception of impact – national or international policy changeSome of their issues are Motherhood and Apple Pie type issues – not in the contested world of drug addiction for example. So why read this book?Another lens to add to the pot – a way of thinking about the organization – and ideas which I though would resonate – it seemed that the organization was already doing a lot of this work and this might provide a language to talk it.It also highlights the importance of knowing exactly what you are shooting for? These organizations are not fuzzy in what they want to achieve – in the jargon of the social entrepreneurs they can clearly articulate their social value proposition – in English that means they can articulate what the social problem they are tackling,The impact they seek to have on this problemThe solution that they proposeAnd the people, capital and opportunities they seek to exploit
What are the take-awaysBooks like this work if they are generative…not prescriptive.Some questions it raises for me include….
Forces For Good
BOOK REVIEWForces for Good: The six practices of high-impact nonprofits (Crutchfield & Grant, 2008)<br />
“Myths of nonprofit excellence”<br />Myth 1: Perfect Management<br />Myth 2: Brand-name awareness<br />Myth 3: A breakthrough new idea<br />Myth 4: Textbook mission statements<br />Myth 5: High ratings on conventional metrics<br />Myth 6: Large budgets<br />
Central finding<br /> Leverage<br />Great organizations work with and through others to create more impact than they could achieve alone.<br />
6 Practices<br />Advocate & Serve<br />Make Markets Work<br />Inspire Evangelists<br />Nurture Nonprofit Networks<br />Master the Art of Adaptation<br />Share Leadership<br />
Organizing framework<br />Advocate & Serve<br />Make Markets Work<br />Inspire Evangelists<br />Nurture Nonprofit Networks<br />Master the Art of Adaptation<br />Share Leadership<br />
Implications<br />Seed social movements and help build fields<br />Shape government policy<br />Engage individuals and change attitudes<br />Networks of collaborators<br />Privilege working outside of the organizational boundaries<br />Organizations just need to be “good enough”<br />Results orientated<br />
Food for thought…<br />What does high-impact mean to your organization?<br />How does your organization measure its impact?<br />How helpful is the idea of leverage?<br />Do any of the six practices resonate?<br />How might these ideas translate into everyday operations?<br />