What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Giving Compass' Take:
• The Bridgespan Group reveals the results of a study it conducted in the nonprofit sector and found that only 10 percent of all organizations surveyed appeared equipped to maximize impact.
• How can you strengthen your organization in the area of impact philanthropy? The Bridgespan Group lays out four areas where many organizations were deficient — create a checklist and see where there's room for improvement.
The largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in American history is now under way ... and organizations stand ready to benefit from an impressive body of thought and practice that has accumulated in the nonprofit sector over the past few decades.
But how well prepared are nonprofit organizations to realize the promise of the Impact Era? We conducted a study — the Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector — that yielded an unsettling answer to that question: only about 1 in 10 nonprofits have all of the foundational elements in place that they will need to maximize their impact in the coming years.
In the survey, more than 3,000 stakeholders from the nonprofit sector — including nonprofit executives and staff members, board members, and donors — responded to a series of questions that involve seven essential elements of strategic leadership: mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, organization and talent, funding, and board governance. To perform at a truly high level, we argue in Engine of Impact, a nonprofit needs to be strong in all seven of these elements.
Yet, according to our analysis of responses from executives, staff members, and board members at nonprofit organizations, only 11 percent of those organizations are strong in all seven elements of strategic leadership. Indeed, this analysis revealed that more than 80 percent of nonprofit organizations struggle with at least one of the elements.
Never before has the potential of civil society organizations to create impact been greater.
Survey results illuminate specific areas of performance that many organizations — and, in some areas, most organizations — have failed to master. Areas most in need of improvement include board governance, funding, impact evaluation, and strategy.
Board Governance. In the survey, 53 percent of nonprofit executives and staff members disagreed (in varying degrees) with the statement "My organization conducts thorough and proactive succession planning for the executive director and top executives."
Funding. The lifeblood of any nonprofit is its funding. Yet analysis of survey responses found that 52 percent of organizations struggle in this area. In particular, many nonprofits exhibit a limited ability to generate major gifts from individuals or to leverage the fundraising potential of their boards.
Impact Evaluation. According to our analysis of survey responses, 50 percent of nonprofit organizations struggle with impact evaluation. Many nonprofits, moreover, do not consistently follow best practices in this area.
Strategy. We define strategy as a planned set of actions that enables an organization to achieve its mission. Our analysis of survey responses revealed that 38 percent of organizations struggle with strategy.
Read the full article about why most nonprofits are unprepared for the Impact Era by William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker at The Bridgespan Group.