Real-World Guidance for Building an Impactful Nonprofit
Simply put, many new nonprofits find themselves on a treadmill: they launch and expand somewhat, but not enough to achieve organizational sustainability, which, according to author Kathleen Kelly Janus, means sustaining operations and becoming highly impactful.
It's no small challenge. No matter how innovative an organization is or how impactful its services are, the reality is the vast majority of nonprofits have annual operating budgets under $500,000, operate month to month, and have few reserves.
Janus, a social entrepreneur, lecturer at Stanford University, and expert on philanthropy, set out to learn what it takes to get off the treadmill. Based on years of research and more than 200 interviews with founders, leadership teams, and funders of nonprofits across the country, she distilled what she learned into five key strategies that she says the best nonprofits employ to scale up and make a difference. They are:
Janus makes her case by telling the stories of how visionary individuals drove organizational success, and provides tools and templates that any nonprofit can use, such as how to craft a theory of change that will guide your organization, a performance dashboard to track key performance indicators, and research on how boards are helpful and how they could be more helpful.
Of particular interest is the inclusion of a series of benchmarks related to fundraising, leading, and storytelling. Realistically, it takes a lot of work to adopt and act on the benchmarks, but building a successful, impactful organization takes lots of effort, more than most people can know in advance. If they have a vision they think is worthy, they owe it to themselves to approach it with the rigor and completeness outlined in this book.
Social Startup Success is available from Hachette Book Group.
Reviewed by Peter Lowy