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William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker

Recent Posts by William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker:

Your Engine of Impact: Scaling

Over the course of seven posts, we have argued that leaders who want their organization to achieve maximum impact must embrace the essentials of strategic leadership. We compare this kind of intentional leadership to a high-performance engine. In those seven posts, we have discussed the components of this engine: mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, organization and talent, funding, and board governance. 


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.


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. 


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. 


Your Engine of Impact: Insight and Courage

Nonprofit leaders who want their organization to achieve maximum impact must embrace the essentials of strategic leadership. We compare this kind of leadership to the work of building, tuning, and fueling a high-performance engine. Every nonprofit that aims to be truly effective must become an engine of impact, we argue. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, this engine must have certain essential components—including mission, strategy, and impact evaluation. To help generate power, the engine also requires the twin “turbines” of insight and courage.


Your Engine of Impact: Impact Evaluation

In a widely circulated 2013 essay, the philanthropist Bill Gates extolled the role that measurement plays in improving the human condition. He offered examples of ways in which measurement had improved the delivery of vital services worldwide. But he also offered a rueful observation. “This may seem basic,” he wrote, “but it is amazing how often it [measurement] is not done and how hard it is to get right.”


Your Engine of Impact: Strategy

Every nonprofit needs a strategy—a planned set of actions that will enable it to achieve the all-important mission that provides its reason for being.

The development and implementation of a viable strategy can be a daunting task for nonprofit leaders, but valuable tools and frameworks are available to help guide them. Many of these tools and frameworks originated in the discipline known as business strategy. Nonprofits, of course, differ from for-profit corporations in that they exist to serve a social purpose rather than to increase shareholder returns. But like businesses, nonprofits operate in markets, and the basic principles of economics apply to them, too.


Your Engine of Impact: Mission

The mission of a nonprofit organization is its raison d’etre and its guiding light: A nonprofit exists to fulfill its mission—and its mission, as encapsulated in its mission statement, will ideally ensure that it stays on course. Yet, despite the paramount importance of having a clear and focused mission and mission statement, most nonprofits fall short in this area. 


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