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Your Engine of Impact: Board Governance

Governance is a crucial component of any nonprofit’s success. It’s also one of the hardest aspects of nonprofit leadership to get right. We have observed this truth firsthand over many years of conducting due diligence on a wide range of nonprofits, first for the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership and now at King Philanthropies. And research buttresses this observation: In a survey of nonprofit chief executives and board chairs conducted in 2015 for the BoardSource report “Leading with Intent,” respondents on average gave nonprofit boards a grade of B-minus in overall performance. Indeed, many people in the nonprofit sector simply assume that ineffective boards are par for the course. This sort of negative thinking all too easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—one that we firmly reject.


New Model for “Philanthropy at Scale” Launched by Global Philanthropists

The following article is cross-posted from Alliance magazine blog. Based out of the UK, Alliance magazine is the leading global magazine on philanthropy and social investment.

Some of the world’s wealthiest people have combined forces to launch Co-Impact, a new $500 million initiative to pool resources, talent, and ideas to improve the lives of underserved populations across the developing world.


A Call to Inaction: Nonprofits, Give Your Staff a Break

Hi everyone. Once a while, I do a call to action. For example, if you haven’t written a review of a foundation on Grant Advisor lately, or encourage your grantees to do so, please do it! Grant Advisor is like a Yelp for foundations, and everyone who writes a review gets a basket of gluten-free mini muffins*! (*By gluten-free mini muffins, I mean the joy of advancing our sector by increasing transparency and decreasing power imbalance).

This time, though, I am making a call to inaction. I am giving my team and myself the entire week of Christmas off. If your organization can do it, I strongly recommend you to do that as well (or some alternatives to that, as discussed below). Here are several reasons why:


Why Your Organization Needs to Share Metrics as Well as Anecdotes

While teaching a university course on nonprofit leadership, we were addressing the importance of return on investment (ROI) for nonprofits. That is, how funders who make large investments in a nonprofit expect measurements that indicate their assistance is having an impact. One student, who was a nonprofit executive director, pushed back, saying that even her major donors were “just fine with stories, pictures, and anecdotal evidence” of their program’s effectiveness. Therefore, there was no need for metrics or ROI. When I asked how large a “major gift” was, she answered, “$1,000.”


Your Engine of Impact: Funding

Somewhat paradoxically, most nonprofit executives and board members spend more time and effort on financial matters than their counterparts in the business sector do. For people in the nonprofit sector, that’s an unfortunate fact of life, since asking for money can be fraught with psychological complexity. Indeed, even bold leaders of extraordinary nonprofits sometimes become remarkably timid when the need to ask for money arises. 


Mind Reading Is NOT in a Fundraiser’s Job Description

The master fundraiser Steve Haddad once said to a development novice, “Your job as a fundraiser is to ask for the gift. The donor’s job is to decide how to respond. Don’t try to do the donor’s job.” That simple distinction, if taken to heart, is very liberating.


Take Advantage of Donor Procrastination: Add a Donate Button to Your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile

Looking for a last-minute way to get more donations? You’re in luck! Most online donors wait until the last three days of the year to contribute to their favorite charities. Give them a convenient way to research and donate to your nonprofit—all on the same page—by adding a free Donate button to your organization’s GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.


That “Hello!” Moment: When Grantseeking Becomes an Imperative

I think there is a moment in every organization’s life when grantseeking is not just something that is on the list of things to consider, but when it becomes obvious that the next step in growth is to pursue grant support. Sometimes this happens as a reaction to a financial crisis, but most often it occurs because the growth of the programs and services being offered outpaces current revenue. You can count on fundraising events, soliciting individual donors (small and large), and program revenue to take your organization to a certain level, but when it comes time to engage in the next phase of development, you have to look to other sources such as grant support.


Moving from Overhead to Outcomes

Why are nonprofits judged on their overhead costs as opposed to the results they create for society? The reason may be more practical than philosophical: charity impact data simply doesn’t exist in a standardized format. What if we could change that? 

GuideStar, the nation’s largest source of nonprofit data, and Mission Measurement, a global leader in outcomes measurement, are working together to tackle this most difficult of problems. 


Your Engine of Impact: Organization and Talent

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: An organization is only as good as its people. And a corollary of that truth is that people in an organization can be good at what they do only to the extent that their leaders create the right structure and the right culture to support them.