There is a high-level thought-provoking article entitled “Creating High-Impact Nonprofits” By Heather McLeod Grant & Leslie R. Crutchfield that was published last year in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  It may be particularly useful to those interested in improving their own non-profit or charity or in thinking about how to select a non-profit or charity to support financially or otherwise.

There has been a lot of misguided discussion about overhead ratios and efficiency for non-profits and this article sets out some more relevant factors that can lead to an effective or “high-impact” non-profit.  As well they deal with myths such as you require perfect management, you require strong brand recognition, you need novel or radical ideas, or large budgets etc.

Some of the factors that go into having high-impact non-profit that they identified included:
1) serve well but also advocate for policy and legal changes;
2) use markets/self-interest rather than pure altruism and work with good businesses;
3) create a group of “evangelists” who will spread the word about the importance of the work;
4) nurture networks which means work with other like-minded organizations rather than viewing them as competitors;
5) be adaptable (yes that seems trite) but specifically master the “cycle of adaptation” which involves listening to feedback, experimenting/innovating, evaluating and learning from the innovation and finally modifying plans and activities as needed;
6) share leadership which means founders and CEOs need to keep their egos in check and encourage others in the organization to accept important leadership roles.

The full article can be found at:

http://www.ssireview.org/images/articles/2007FA_feature_mcleod_grant_crutchfield.pdf