What makes The Heritage Foundation one of the most famous and widely quoted nonprofit companies worldwide? Having a top-notch staff to promote public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense helps, no question. But as the new book Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits shows, it’s more than that. Heritage succeeds because its leaders follow certain “high-impact” practices that have elevated the 34-year-old institution to the forefront of the nonprofit world.
Figuring out what those high-impact practices are matters, because success in the nonprofit world is by no means guaranteed. More than 30,000 nonprofits are started in this country every year. We’re talking about groups that are, among other things, trying to feed hungry people, clean the environment, provide housing for poor families, push for greater access to education in science and other important fields, and train young people.
But good intentions aren’t enough. Only a fraction of that 30,000 will survive. Many run aground; others manage to just get by. But a select few, like Heritage, do much more. They keep growing and growing, and they surpass even the wildest hopes of their founders.
The question is, why? What makes certain nonprofits thrive? Are they doing something differently from other nonprofits?
They are, say Forces for Good authors Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. And, fortunately, their successful habits are something everyone can emulate. How do Crutchfield and Grant know? They surveyed thousands of nonprofit CEOs before zeroing in on the 12 highest-performing ones -- then spent two years examining that dozen in great detail.
So what are those six practices? According to Forces for Good, successful nonprofits:
* Work with government and advocate for policy change, in addition to providing services.
* Harness market forces and see business as a powerful partner, not as an enemy to be disdained or ignored.
* Create meaningful experiences for individual supporters and convert them into evangelists for the cause.
* Build and nurture nonprofit networks, treating other groups not as competitors for scarce resources but as allies.
* Adapt to the changing environment and be as innovative and nimble as they are strategic.
? Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good.