What about innovation? How can a nonprofit go from good to great?

In the nonprofit world, where funding is typically mission-driven, innovation often lags behind the need to pursue everyday programming activities. But that’s not to say it’s not out there. Organizations all across the country are innovating to create more impact. In fact, research shows many of these nonprofits utilize similar practices to help them go from good to great.

Recently, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant published a two-year study of high-impact nonprofits and uncovered six innovative practices that any organization can use to address organizational challenges, build capacity, effectively fulfill their mission and create more impact in the communities they serve. Here’s how your organization can go from good to great:

  1. Advocate and serve. Innovative organizations have recognized that it’s not enough simply to serve a constituency or advocate for it. Great nonprofits bridge the gap between service and advocacy and get good at doing both. This significantly increases their organizational impact.
  2. Make markets work. Innovative organizations are in bed with business. These nonprofits find ways to work with the private sector, influencing business practices, building relationships and developing earned income ventures, all in an effort to leverage the market to achieve larger scale social change.
  3. Inspire evangelists. In the eyes of innovative nonprofits, volunteers, donors and the like are more than just extra hands on deck or dollars in their pocket. These individuals are cultivated, inspired and engaged as evangelists for the cause. As committed voices, evangelists build and sustain networks of “believers” to help the nonprofit achieve larger goals.
  4. Nurture nonprofit networks. Innovative nonprofits see competitors in a different light. They’re keen to build alliances, recognizing networks help people help each other. In this way, everyone thrives.
  5. Master the art of adaptation. Innovative organizations readily listen, learn and adapt to changing conditions, modifying their strategies as needed for a better chance at success. This allows them to sustain impact by staying relevant.
  6. Share leadership. Innovative leaders share power to be a stronger force for good. Leadership is delegated appropriately throughout the organization and the network. Leaders empower staff, board and partners, motivating and driving others to participate, reach and hold themselves accountable.

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