A book by philanthropy expert Kathleen Kelly Janus which bases her research on the best practices of America’s most successful nonprofits. And she derives her compelling sections on ideas testing and experimenting from the funding models of innovators in the tech sector.
She also offers counsel for small nonprofits that struggle to grow past their stage of initial seed funding. Throughout the book, she details the aspirations of the social entrepreneurs she covers, recounting their passion and dedication to spearheading change. Her accounts of how nonprofit leaders transform lives in their neighborhoods and around the world will inspire readers interested in nonprofits and social service.
Reading Notes Points
- Avoiding costly mistakes: test your ideas first!
- Practice transparency and accountability. Share the lessons you learn from failure. This remind me of Ray Dalio’s principles.
- Correlate your vision with the use of “theory of change” model with its program activities which you can track.
- Develop a funding model that incorporates donations and earned income.
- When collaborating, try to offer complementary services.
- Empower your staff.
- Craft compelling stories to reinforce institutional memory and connect with donors.
- Beneficiaries can be great ambassadors, but be ethical in using their stories.
Nonprofits don’t have access to angel investors unlike private businesses. Their stakeholders include governments, other organizations, nonprofits doing similar work, researchers, activists and beneficiaries.
Therefore, in order to grow, nonprofits must maximize funding using “human-centered design” which is a cost-effective, responsive cycle of research, brainstorming and prototyping.
New nonprofits should keep costs low when developing their prototypes.
For example, Aspire Public Schools, a nonprofit delivering preschool education to low-income neighborhoods, made a prototype for its Preschool Bus Project using a carpet and some tape, and then furnished it with cheap IKEA furniture. So, they might healthily run their operation at lowest possible Capital Expense and Operation Expense.
Lessons Learned Actually Learned
Any innovation involves trial, error and, often, failure and trying again. No great leap in any industry has been done without significant amount of failing and not giving up. This is the main ingredient on which success is build.
Unsuccessful nonprofits hurt beneficiaries which make ability to learn from mistakes and failing crucial. Therefore, when nonprofit organization can’t admit their failure, their organization will suffer. Since this rob them of the opportunity to actually learn the from their mistakes. And if the culture does not change, the organization will suffer in the long run.
Silicon Valley offer a model for embracing failure in term of its innovators need tolerance for risk. The only way to know if your service is successful is to test it in the field. In addition, change of perspective on how success looks like might also need to change since success might come in stages, and failures have lessons to teach.
For example, GiveWell shares its failures on its website so other nonprofits might learn from its mistakes. Share missteps within your organization; discuss expectations versus real results and problems.
“Keep the focus squarely on solving the problem, as opposed to falling in love with a particular solution.”
Outputs Versus Outcomes
I used to think that outputs and outcomes are synonyms. I was wrong.
Here is an example to illustrate the difference,
Instead of focusing on “outputs,” such as how many people attended a training program, rely on “outcomes,” such as how many attendees go on to get better-paying jobs, or the like.
In order to measure our ‘output’ and ‘outcome’, we need a great deal of sound data, relevant metrics and qualitative analysis. All the fun good stuff. The “theory of change” model sets a goal and defines metrics to track progress over time on a dashboard. So, lets focus more on ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘outputs’. ‘Outputs’ usually just make us look busy with minimal impact.
Self-sustainability is very important. Therefore, the biggest barrier to scaling up is attracting funding. Which involves developing an earned-income strategy, where your organization sells products or services, can help. With subsequent growth, earnings can make up an average of 30% of the budget.
Funders can’t expect nonprofits to follow business models. The Sierra Club, for example, has found that charging membership fees is the funding method best suited to its needs.
The strongest sectors for testing earned-income strategies are education, global development and youth development. Nonprofits in human rights, criminal justice and environmental protection have less access to earned income for ethical reasons.
Tell Compelling Stories
As my studies on social media marketing goes, our ability to compellingly tell a story would define how well we do or lack of it. So, needless to say, we need to learn how to be a storyteller.
Inspiring stories abound in the nonprofit world. Your organization should always be the protagonist working against the problem it seeks to solve. The problem is the antagonist. Tell a story that incorporates universal themes, such as the journey of discovery or shared personal challenges.
Think about a ‘hook’.
Ask yourself what your audience wants to hear, what entrenched ideas you’d like to challenge and what you’d like the audience to learn. Connect to your community’s cultural narrative by scanning the media for stories that link to your organization’s mission.
Tell stories that speak to the head and the heart. Beneficiaries’ personal stories have power, but for ethical reasons, do not exploit them. To create “institutional memory,” have employees share stories at meetings.
Again, if you’re into nonprofit organization, this is the book for you.
Buy Now: Amazon ($18.36)| Kinokuniya (MY) (RM 137.21)
More Book Reviews
- The Leadership Gap, What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, Lolly Daskal (Portfolio, 2017) (8/10★)
- Predictably Irrational, The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely (Harper, 2008) (8/10★)
- Loopholes of the Rich, How the Rich Legally Make More Money and Pay Less Tax, Diane Kennedy (Wiley, 2004) (7/10★)
- The 10X Rule, The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, Grant Cardone (Wiley, 2011)(6/10★)
- Wealth, Grow It, Protect It, Spend It, and Share It, Stuart E. Lucas (Wharton School Publishing, 2006) (9/10★)
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“Start testing immediately. A little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.”