Influencers of philanthropy: What nonprofits need to thrive today

Nonprofit-focused brand reputation firm ONE HUNDRED recently released new research examining the ways in which philanthropy is changing—and the new forces behind these changes. Four themes emerge from a series of in-depth discussions and research with leaders from well-established organizations and start-ups.

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The themes—which range from strong reminders about breaking down silos to embracing the choice between innovation and closing down—come with valuable advice and words of caution.

Influencers of philanthropy: What nonprofits need to thrive today

“We often hear of the passion and strength of ‘the people’ as the critical factor that enables nonprofits to have a positive impact on society,” said Brian Crimmins, managing partner of ONE HUNDRED and CEO of Changing Our World, Inc., in a news release. “Through our discussions and research—as well as in our day-to-day work—it became evident that while ‘the people’ are certainly an asset, it is integration across the organization, and throughout the community, that can truly maximize impact.”

Influencers of philanthropy: What nonprofits need to thrive today

More specifically, the research reveals four key methodological factors:

Harness feedback

Don’t just listen, hear what your stakeholders are saying. The research suggests that NGOs need to create stronger and more efficient feedback loops and get better at truly “hearing” what their supporters are saying to create an engaging two-way dialogue. Advocates and donors are investing in the mission therefore the NGO must be prepared to deliver on their expectation of receiving—and providing—feedback on their work.

Smash silos

Lack of integration puts the mission at risk. The majority of the research suggests that internal integration remains a significant issue across the non-profit sector. These silos often lead to inefficiency and confusion internally and externally, potentially harming the NGOs brand and creating roadblocks for delivering on its mission.

Measure the mission

Demonstrating ROI is a table stake. The research confirms the need to focus on the impact as well as the programs being delivered. Whether someone is advocating for a cause or donation to a specific NGO, their actions are deliberate. Most people have limited time and money, so demonstrating the value of their support is critical in actually gaining their support.

Shift or Shut

Be willing to pivot direction. Several leaders cited the organizational courage to embrace transformative change was necessary to remain vibrant, relevant and true to their mission. The ability to evolve how an organization does its work (e.g. new ways to connect with targeted populations, innovative funding approaches) or its ability to achieve desired progress against its mission does not mean, however, that the organization has to change its work or its mission, but if you cannot pivot quickly you need to embrace the notion of closing down.

Influencers of philanthropy: What nonprofits need to thrive today

“Whether you are a company, political official, NGO or foundation, we are all competing for mind share,” said Monica Marshall, ONE HUNDRED partner and SVP and director of Ketchum Purpose, in the release. “To truly break through, you cannot underestimate the need to break down silos and have programs, marketing, communications and fundraising work hand in hand.”

The study also reveals that philanthropic leaders are struggling to balance a challenging communications and fundraising environment with an increased need—and desire—to help more people. There is a strong push to innovate, but scaling success to benefit larger populations—whether geographically or simply in greater numbers—is posing challenges to new charities and well-established organizations alike.

To address these pressing issues, organizations need strong, dedicated and passionate teams.  While these organizations generally benefit from strong senior leadership, they struggle to build bench strength.

Download the full report here.


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