Interest in early-stage nonprofits within Korea’s social impact ecosystem has increased in recent years, and more and more are garnering financial and organizational support. As one example, in early 2023, Brian Impact Foundation, which focuses on big-bet philanthropy, donated a total of 12.6 billion won (about $9.7 million) to 15 nonprofits through its Impact Ground Project. Among the grantees, early-stage nonprofits accounted for 66.7 percent. The foundation has also started a capacity-development program for nonprofits in collaboration with Root Impact, an intermediate support organization.

The ultimate success of these young nonprofits—their ability to fulfill their missions—will depend on many things, but good governance is among the most important. The global environmental, social, and governance (ESG) phenomenon sheds light on the long-overlooked matter of governance in the realm of corporate management in Korea, and we must examine nonprofits with the same lens. Establishing practices that hold founders, C-level leaders, and board members accountable and responsible can guard against decision-making based on personal preferences and help ensure that organizations’ social mission comes first. It follows that the more successful nonprofits are at achieving their missions, the more support they’ll receive, and the greater the impact they’ll have on both the social impact ecosystem and society.

That said, preventing irresponsible management and less-than-transparent operation—cited as a major problem of Korean nonprofits in the past—can be challenging, especially as organizations grow. In this regard, the education-focused nonprofit Jump Corporation offers a useful case study of how early-stage nonprofits can develop effective governance practices and evolve them over time. Since its founding in 2011, Jump has experimented with a variety of governance approaches and identified a range of insights that can help other new nonprofits ethically and effectively pursue their missions. This includes the value of experimentation.

An Experimental Approach

Jump’s mission is to create “a society in which anyone can benefit from learning opportunities,” with a focus on expanding educational opportunities for underprivileged teenagers throughout Korea. The organization uses a “triangular mentoring model” in which three different groups mutually benefit: University student volunteers assist teenagers with their schoolwork; professionals act as mentors and role models for the teenagers and provide career advice to the university students; and, as they make progress, the teenagers offer university students and professionals a rewarding experience. The program creates a system in which everyone benefits from learning and sharing—a model that was awarded 250 million won (about $200,000) through Google Korea’s Impact Challenge in 2016.

According to a 2019 survey of program participants, 66.7 percent of teenagers increased the number of hours they studied and 63.8 percent improved their grades. Moreover, 69.1 percent experienced greater self-esteem and 72.9 percent felt a greater sense of self-efficacy. University students and professionals meanwhile noted that the program helped them enhance their soft skills and better understand the viewpoints of various generations.

Successfully experimenting with and evolving its governance structure over the last decade has been central to Jump’s success. Adapting to organizational growth, embracing diverse perspectives, thoughtfully collaborating, championing leadership change, and committing to transparency have all moved the organization closer to achieving its mission.

  1. Adapt Governance Structures as the Organization Grows
  2. Foster a Diverse Board
  3. Build a Community That Shares the Organization’s DNA
  4. Regularly Revamp Leadership
  5. Build a Transparent Organizational Culture

Read the full article about early-stage nonprofit governance by Kelly Hyunjung Shin, Yumin Jo, and Jinwoo Cheong at Stanford Social Innovation Review.