New Study: Reveals Four Critical Factors for Nonprofits to Succeed in an Ever Expanding and Crowded Market

July 10, 2017

Brian Crimmins
Managing Partner

Philanthropy is changing. By design and by demand. Proactively and reactively.

Well-established organizations are adapting to new realities, while start-ups are leveraging the advantages of a blank canvas to create non-profits that barely resemble the legacy organizations so many of us have known as the defining model.

There’s much to learn from all of this. And important questions to be asked.

How effective are today’s non-profits?

What are their biggest concerns, near-term and down the road?

What needs to change, either by choice or necessity?

And this: Is philanthropy working?

We are proud to launch our inaugural Influencers in Philanthropy Report, examining the ways in which philanthropy is changing and the new forces behind these changes.  Four themes emerged from a series of in-depth discussions and research with leaders from well-established organizations and start-ups. The themes, which range from strong reminders about breaking down silos to embracing the choice between innovation and closing down, came with valuable advice and words of caution.

More specifically, the research reveals:

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 confirmed 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.

“Whether you are a company, political official, NGO or Foundation, we are all competing for mind share,” says Monica Marshall, Partner, ONE HUNDRED and SVP, Director Ketchum Purpose. “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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