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Teach for America

10 Great Social Innovation Reads: September 2015

social changeIn September there was some surprising good news about climate change. Yes, you read that right. We are perhaps, slowly, starting to address that problem (mind blowing, huh?). And in other news, there was a call for funders to help nonprofits become better fundraisers and some tools to help nonprofits use data in that pursuit.

Add to that concern about what digitial technology is doing to our humanness and critiques of Teach for America, proposed changes to philanthropy policy and an emerging “network” entrepreneur, and it was a very interesting month.

Below are my picks of the 10 best reads in the world of social change in September. But let me know what I missed. And if you want a longer list, follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+.

And if you want to see past 10 Great Reads lists go here.

  1. If the world of social change is getting you down, if the challenges we face seem insurmountable, look no further than the New York Magazine where Jonathan Chait sees hope in the battle against climate change. As he puts it: “The willpower and innovation that have begun to work in tandem can continue to churn. Eventually the world will wean itself almost completely off carbon-based energy. There is, suddenly, hope.” Wow.

  2. Writing on the Blue Avocado blog, Aaron Dorfman from The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy takes foundations to task for wanting their grantees to be financially sustainable, but not helping them build that capacity, “Why don’t more foundations invest in helping their organizing grantees develop independent funding streams? Here – as with many issues grantees face – even a little targeted capacity-building support would go a long way.” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

  3. One of the ways nonprofits can build fundraising capacity is by learning to use their data more effectively to raise money. To help in that effort, The Chronicle of Philanthropy put together a helpful toolkit of articles and case studies.

  4. And speaking of fundraising, the ALS Foundation continues to amaze me. In September, they released a nice infographic to the many donors of the 2014 Ice Bucket challenge reporting where their $115 million in donations went. Great donor stewardship and transparency!

  5. There seems to be a growing concern about what technology is doing to our humanness. Callie Oettinger writes “While social media has made sharing easier, allowing us to connect with the rest of the world, I often think about what would happen if people stopped trying to connect with the rest of the world and instead spent their time 1) creating value and 2) sharing value, rather than…creating crap and sharing crap.” And MIT professor Sherry Turkle released a new book, Reclaiming Conversation that argues we must “acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable [and] make corrections and remember who we are — creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations, artless, risky and face to face.”

  6. A new series launched at The Washington Post about the newest buzz phrase in the world of philanthropy, “effective altruism.” This is the idea that you should “optimize your donations to ensure that they are as “high-impact” as possible.” It is a fascinating and controversial idea.

  7. To counter the hype about “social entrepreneurs,” Jane Wei-Skillern (who wrote one of my favorite articles ever about networked nonprofits), David Ehrlichman, and David Sawyer introduced a new concept they call “network entrepreneurs.” As they put it, “Where social entrepreneurs often struggle to scale their own organizations despite heroic efforts, a network entrepreneur’s approach expands far beyond the boundaries of their own organization, supporting peers and partners across sectors to solve the problem. Not surprisingly, the potential for impact increases exponentially when leaders leverage resources of all types—leadership, money, talent—across organizations and sectors toward a common goal. And as a result of this work, we celebrate the change-generating network itself above any single person or institution.”

  8. I know I keep talking about how much I love the new History of Philanthropy blog, but this month was a perfect example of the tremendous value they bring the social change sector when Jeffrey Snyder explained how old and new philanthropy to support K-12 education differ. Fascinating. And it’s particularly interesting in light of Dale Russakoff’s new book that describes how Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark public schools in 2010 hasn’t accomplished a whole lot.

  9. And that wasn’t the only educational reform effort that came under fire in September. Samantha Allen of the Daily Beast chronicled a growing chorus of critiques of Teach for America.

  10. Philanthropic visionary Lucy Bernholz released a list of proposed changes to philanthropy policy that will keep up with changing times. As she put it: “It’s time to recognize that the tax code is no longer the fundamental policy frame shaping philanthropy and nonprofits…it should be obvious that tax privilege is only one factor that Americans consider when thinking about using their private resources for public benefit…The tax code was the 20th century policy infrastructure for philanthropy. Digital regulations will provide the scaffolding and shape for 21st century associations and expression — aka, civil society.”

Photo Credit: Evan Bench

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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: December 2014

social change readingDecember is often a fairly quiet month in the world of social change writing because of the holidays and time off, but there was still some great stuff to read. From Giving Tuesday, to Teach for America’s 25th anniversary, to philanthropy buzzwords, to social media trends to watch, to a critique of Charity Navigator’s naughty and nice list, there was a good bit to think about in the world of social change.

Below is my pick of the 10 best reads in December. But please add to the list in the comments. And if you want a longer list of picks, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

You can read past months’ 10 Great Social Innovation Reads lists here.

  1. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Umair Haque provides a scathing critique of American politicians and pundits and the dirty little secrets they are harboring about our economy. As he puts it: “We don’t live the lives we were meant to by merrily shoving Artificially Fried Chicken Flavored Dorito Slurpees down our gullets while watching our societies crumble. We live them when we build things. Great things. Worthy things. Noble things. And the greatest, worthiest, and noblest of all things that mankind has ever built are not apps, drones, corporations, or profits. They are societies in which every life counts. In which every life is truly, fully lived.” Wow.

  2. And speaking of the disparities in our economy, there is growing concern that wealth inequality is making its way into philanthropy. The super rich are disproportionately making up American giving and are supporting their own self interests (i.e. their alma maters, donor advised funds that provide personal tax benefits but no social benefits) as opposed to a redistribution of wealth to the poor.

  3. Teach For America, the often heralded nonprofit that sends recent college graduates into challenged schools to teach for 2 years, marks its 25th anniversary this year. NPR reports on the challenges the organization faces, including a “self-described TFA resistance movement [with] former corps members [who] say their youthful idealism was cynically co-opted by a group that, in the big picture, acts to the detriment of public education.” Yikes.

  4. Amazing blogger David Henderson from Full Contact Philanthropy took a writing hiatus earlier this year, but he’s back with a vengeance, and I am loving every one of his posts, especially December’s critique of Charity Navigator’s “naughty and nice list”.

  5. As is her annual tradition, Lucy Bernholz offers her 2015 philanthropy buzzwords. My personal favorite are “artivists” and “citizen science.”

  6. I would love to see more nonprofits (and foundations) getting into the advocacy game. Rick Anderson, writing on the Markets for Good blog, provides a really interesting case study of how Washington Nonprofits, the state association for the 58,000+ charitable organizations in Washington State, has been using data to better coordinate with state agencies, elected officials, other nonprofits and foundations.

  7. December marked the third annual Giving Tuesday, and it was the most profitable yet, raising over $45 Million. Perhaps we have a movement?

  8. The Wild Apricot blog offers 5 Social Media Trends That Could Impact Nonprofits in 2015.

  9. Kate Barr from the Nonprofits Assistance Fund encourages nonprofit leaders to stop fearing money. As she puts it, “Let’s eliminate the fear of finance from the nonprofit sector. It doesn’t serve us personally or organizationally. Why? Because nonprofits with strong financial leadership are better equipped to deliver on their promises to the community, explore new territories and foster innovation.” Amen to that!

  10. The fundraising anomaly of last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge left a lot of outstanding questions. Not least of which is whether ALS would be able to retain any of those new donors. Beth Kanter talks to ALS CEO Barb Newhouse about exactly that question.

Photo Credit: US Department of Agriculture

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10 Great Social Innovation Reads: July 2012

I was out of town for the first half of July (and mostly away from social media), so I’m probably not qualified to give a 10 best list for the month, but I’m still going to try (ha!). As always, please add what I missed (particularly this month) to the comments.

To me, July was about outcomes and measurement. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is a growing drumbeat for social change organizations to measure what (if anything) they are changing. Some readers commenting on that post argued that measurement is not a new thing for the nonprofit sector. True, it’s not new, but its importance (to funders, ratings agencies, government agencies, etc.) is increasing dramatically. So those in the social change world must heed the call and understand the new reality.

As always, you can see the 10 Great Reads lists from past months here.

Here’s July’s 10 Great Reads in Social Innovation:

  1. In two back-to-back posts on the Full Contact Philanthropy blog, David Henderson explains how nonprofits have to get “smarter about how we allocate our scarce resources.” First by getting strategic about who they serve and then by focusing on outcomes.

  2. Bill Shore of Share Our Strength adds to the drumbeat by arguing “nonprofit organizations are failing to grapple with the threshold questions on which all else depends: what specific objective are they trying to achieve and how will they measure whether they have or have not done so. “

  3. In the Los Angeles Times, Jared Billings takes social innovation darling, Teach for America, to task by asking whether TFA can actually change student achievement if the majority of their teachers leave the profession after only two years.

  4. On the Mission:Innovation blog Nicole Wallace reviews Andrew Zolli’s new book Resilience and his argument that nonprofits must embrace a “new mind-set, one that emphasizes improvisation, ad hoc networks, and adaptation.”

  5. On the Forbes blog, Victor Hwang recapped this month’s Global Innovation Summit and the 10 Lessons on Growing Innovation that emerged from it.

  6. Maybe not everyone should be a social entrepreneur says Lara Galinsky, who (shockingly) works for Echoing Green, one of the biggest supporters of social entrepreneurs.

  7. And maybe not every nonprofit should scale, says John Brothers in a great two-part series on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog.

  8. On what is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs (Unsectored), Mark Hecker recounts the story of true collaboration between public, private and nonprofit sectors when a drug raid was turned into small business development and job creation.

  9. It looks like women may be changing the face of philanthropy in exciting ways. “Women are exerting a greater influence on how philanthropy is done as they accumulate wealth and use their clout to change the way funds are raised and distributed.” Cool!

  10. Echoing the comments of Vikki Spruill from the Council on Foundations, Rick Cohen argues that foundations need to be more transparent in their work.

Photo Credit:

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Building the Social Entrepreneurship Movement: An Interview with Lara Galinsky

Lara GalinskyIn this month’s Social Velocity blog interview, we’re talking with Lara Galinksy. Lara is an author, career expert and senior vice president of Echoing Green. Over the last two decades, Echoing Green has invested $30 million in 500 social entrepreneurs around the world. Galinsky is the co-author of Work on Purpose, which provides a framework for aligning passions with talents to achieve personal fulfillment and societal impact. She is also the co-author of Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact (2007).

You can read past interviews in our Social Innovation Interview Series here.

Nell: Echoing Green was in many ways one of the first instigators of the social entrepreneurship movement, founded in 1987 and having launched some of the darlings of the movement like Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, and Michael Brown and Alan Khazei of City Year. How do you think the social entrepreneurship movement has evolved over time? How is the field of social entrepreneurship different now than it was 20+ years ago?

Lara: The most wonderful way in which the field of social entrepreneurship has developed over the past 20+ years is the fact that, today, questions about the “field” can even be asked. Twenty years ago social entrepreneurship was not a field. It was not a movement. It was barely even a term.

Just five years ago a young woman approached me and told me that she wanted to be a social entrepreneur. I took a step back. I had never heard anyone say that they had wanted to be a social entrepreneur before. Now, I hear it all the time.

Universities now offer specializations and masters degrees in social enterprise. A number of new organizations are emerging to fund, support and incubate social entrepreneurial organizations. And more and more people identify themselves as potential social entrepreneurs. This year alone, we received nearly 3,000 applications for our Fellowship.

Nell: How has Echoing Green’s model evolved over time? What are you doing differently and how do you continually reinvent your organization and your contribution to the social entrepreneurship space?

Lara: Echoing Green has always been a very nimble organization, largely because we have been responsive to the evolution of the field of social entrepreneurship. As the field develops, new trends continuously emerge, changing the way we work.

Right now, we are seeing an increase in for-profit and hybrid organizations in the social entrepreneurship space. This year, 31% of the organizations that applied for our Fellowship used one of these two models. A few Echoing Green Fellows that use either a for-profit or hybrid model are Pharmasecure,, and FarmBuilders.

We are also seeing more product development within the space. Some Echoing Green Fellows who epitomize this trend are Global Cycle Solutions, EGG Energy and Mobius Motors.

There has been an increase in mobile technology. Some of our Fellows working within this field include Mideast Youth, Frogtek. You can read more about this particular trend in our recent blog series on mobile technology.

Finally, over 55% of our semifinalists have identified themselves as younger than 35 for the past four years. Inspired by the altruism of the Millennial generation, we have been giving more attention to the career needs of Millennials at large through our new program, Work on Purpose.

Nell: Some have cautioned that the social entrepreneurship movement focuses too much on individual, charismatic social entrepreneurs instead of institutions or broader/deeper efforts for social change. But Echoing Green is very much interested in individual social entrepreneurs, so how do you counter that argument?

Lara: We know that the individual is absolutely key to the success of a social entrepreneurship project. The power of someone who has found their unique contribution to the world—which we call the individual’s “hustle,” the perfect balance of their heat and their head—is undeniable. However, we believe that it is not enough to put strong young social entrepreneurs in the world. We must also create a world that will support these social entrepreneurs and their ground-breaking ideas.

When we began to envision our newest program, Work on Purpose, a few years ago, a number of individuals had already identified Echoing Green as uniquely positioned to help them ignite a career in social change—including those who were not social entrepreneurs. We came to realize that with our 25-year history of sourcing and supporting social innovators who have successfully created personally meaningful, world-changing careers, we had access to career-creation methodologies that were desperately needed among those who want careers in social change, particularly Millennials.

With this in mind, we developed a new book, Work on Purpose, which shares the best practices of our Fellows with a wider population of individuals interested in careers with impact. We are now developing an online platform, workshops, keynote speeches, panel discussions, course workshop guides, small group discussion guides, and other tools for deep exploration to supplement the book. The cost of our failure to harness the potential of the Millennial generation’s altruistic energy by not providing them with the inspiration, the tools and the resources they need to create the social change careers they want is simply too great to ignore.

Nell: Echoing Green provides a very needed injection of capital to startup social entrepreneurs, as do the burgeoning contests and other startup capital activities out there, but there is still a lack of capital at the next stage (growth) for social entrepreneurs. How do you see that capital space evolving, and what will encourage it to grow?

Lara: Of significant importance in expanding the level of capital provided to this space is greater overall recognition and understanding of the activity that is already occurring and studies on the successes and failures that happen. We need to develop our knowledge of what investment instruments make sense for social businesses and how they lead to requisite returns for investors.

The government could encourage capital in the sector by protecting the social investor from loss (downside protection), through collateral provision and other measures. They could also structure investment support in such a way that it amplifies returns to the investors by making public capital available but allowing disproportionate returns to private investors. Both these concepts have been used to effect in the UK.

Finally, greater use of PRIs by foundations and public charities will significantly increase capital flow. There is insufficient understanding around the IRS consideration of valid PRI approaches, and we need more progressive investments to demonstrate the true charitable impact of this type of capital.

Nell: What’s next for the social entrepreneurship movement? What needs to happen to continue to build support for and interest in social entrepreneurship?

Lara: The most important goal is for social entrepreneurs to demonstrate, collectively and over time, that they can tackle the world’s biggest challenges with scalable impact. Social entrepreneurs are nothing if not ambitious, and the field has set expectations of social impact very high. With a meaningful amount of money, attention, and human capital now in the field, Echoing Green hopes to see a steady stream of rigorously evaluated outcomes.

Below that over-arching goal, Echoing Green is particularly hopeful about two areas for continued progress in the field. First, we would like to see a much greater diversity in the social, economic, and geographic background of social entrepreneurs. At a minimum, the social entrepreneur community should mirror the diversity of the communities where social entrepreneurs work.

Secondly, we hope that the broader ecosystem of support structures for the field continues to develop. This includes the vital human capital represented by projects such as Work on Purpose, as well as the political environment, financial system, etc.

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Tools to Build Smaller Nonprofits

I started Social Velocity because I saw a real hole in the nonprofit sector. Small and medium nonprofits working on social change lacked access to expertise and resources to strengthen and grow their solutions. The Teach for Americas of the world were building impressive organizations and replicating their solution far and wide. But they were doing so with the help of venture philanthropy funds, national consulting firms and broad and deep networks of experts and money. They were the lucky ones.

But there are some equally impressive solutions housed in much smaller, less resourced nonprofit organizations that aren’t really seeing the light of day.  Because these organizations don’t know how to put a growth plan together, figure out how to finance the impact they want to have, or create a compelling ask for money to build, their solutions are not reaching as far as they could.

Social Velocity exists to help those small and medium-size nonprofits who want to be entrepreneurial, who want to grow their programs, who want to get their board engaged and invested, who want to raise money to build their organization, who want to break out of the starvation cycle. I’m very passionate (and opinionated) about the fact that the bottom 80% of nonprofits need help to become stronger, better, more effective and sustainable at creating social impact.

So in order to reach more nonprofits, Social Velocity has a growth plan ourselves. And that growth plan involves creating tools, trainings, e-books, guides, worksheets, templates and other things that nonprofits can download in order to start thinking and doing things differently.

We’ve already made our step-by-step guides available for download, and our blog often has tips and tools to get started, but we want to do more. Some of our initial ideas for tools include:

  • A sample pitch for growth capital
  • An earned income analysis worksheet
  • A step-by-step tip sheet to get your board fundraising
  • A financial plan outline
  • An exercise to understand your nonprofit’s place in the external market
  • Sample language to start messaging around impact
  • Questions to guide your case for support creation
  • An investment range chart to break down a growth capital fundraising goal

But I want your input. How can we help you take social innovation ideas and put them into action? What kinds of tools would help you go from wanting to grow your programs to starting to put the plan in place?  What guides would allow you to move from being intrigued by the idea of philanthropic equity to putting together your own fundraising campaign to raise money to hire more staff, buy more computers, etc.?  What’s holding you back from being able to do things differently and move out of the starvation cycle?

Let me know what tools you’d like to see, either below in the comments, or on our Facebook site. Thanks for your help!

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Echoing Green Call for Social Entrepreneurs

Today Echoing Green launches their annual search for budding social entrepreneurs to invest in. For over 20 years Echoing Green has provided $30 million in seed funding and support to nearly 500 social entrepreneurs – including the founders of Teach For America, City Year, College Summit, and SKS Microfinance, some of the darlings of the social entrepreneurship world.

Echoing Green invests in and supports outstanding emerging social entrepreneurs to launch new organizations that deliver bold, high-impact solutions. Through a two-year fellowship program, they help visionaries develop new solutions to society’s most difficult problems. These social entrepreneurs and their organizations work to solve deeply-rooted social, environmental, economic, and political inequities to ensure equal access and to help all individuals reach their potential.

This year Social Velocity is a search partner for Echoing Green to help them find fellowship applicants. In the Spring of 2011 Echoing Green will award between 12 and 20 fellowships to early-stage social entrepreneurs.  Fellows receive up to $90,000 in seed funding over two years, operational and technical support, and access to a powerful global community of fellows and alumni. The online application opened today and will close on November 12th.

If you think you might qualify, check out their eligibility requirements and assessment criteria and their 2011 Application Handbook.  You can also take a look at some of their past fellows.  They are an impressive, engaging, inspiring group. In fact, one of Social Velocity’s clients, English at Work, is led by Echoing Green Fellow, Maile Broccoli-Hickey. You can read their story here.

The Echoing Green Fellowship is a fabulous opportunity for an aspiring social entrepreneur to not only receive a couple of years of funding and assistance, but also gain a lifetime membership to an elite network of leaders of the social innovation movement. And any past Fellow will tell you that that brings countless opportunities to make things happen.

Good Luck!

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Losing the Charity Mindset

Along with the burgeoning social entrepreneurship movement comes a bit of hubris that social entrepreneurs know better how to create social change than do the nonprofits that have been working toward social change for years.  Some social entrepreneurs argue that nonprofits are too set in their ways to embrace a new way of creating solutions.  I tend to disagree.  We can’t, nor should we, discount and dismiss an entire sector of people and organizations that have been working on social problems for centuries.  However, I do think that there are some things that nonprofits can learn from social entrepreneurs.  One of those is how to lose the charity mindset.

Nonprofits are sometimes referred to as “charities,” and it is a real misnomer.  But beyond semantics, the word, and more importantly the mindset, does a real disservice to organizations working toward change  A charity mindset is when an organization, its board, its funders or others promoting its work have a narrow view that the organization is benevolent, but not critical, to the world at large.  The charity mindset assumes that a nonprofit starts from the position of need, inadequacy, and burden, rather than a position of opportunity, strength, and effectiveness.  The charity mindset differs from a social entrepreneur mindset in a number of ways:

  • Symptoms vs. Solutions: A charity, by its very definition, exists to provide aid to the needy, not to solve the underlying cause of the need.  This is not to say that every nonprofit can work toward solving an underlying problem; there will always be organizations that exist simply to provide basic needs (food, shelter, safety, etc.).  But I wonder if too many nonprofit organizations view their work as residing in the “charity” camp, instead of working, as social entrepreneurs do, to understand the cause of the need and how how they may be able to attack and solve it.

  • Fundraising: A fundraiser in the charity mindset apologizes for the burden of asking someone for money, but a social entrepreneur offers investment opportunities to prospects.  Wendy Kopp from Teach for America went around evangelizing the Teach for America story and sought investors who wanted to get in on the ground level of an incredible opportunity to change the American public education system.

  • Investment in Infrastructure: Charities spend every last penny on the program and leave little money for building the organization.  Social entrepreneurs understand that it takes organizations, infrastructure, systems, and talent to effectively execute on a solution to a social problem.

  • Respect: Charities may be beloved by their supporters, but they may not garner a lot of respect from them.  Social entrepreneurs behave as equal partners with funders in creating solutions, and, as such, they command and receive real respect from investors, volunteers, partners and others.

  • True Costs:  Charities like to claim that as much money as possible goes to direct services, but social entrepreneurs recognize the true costs of their endeavors and are open and honest with funders about those costs.  In fact they demand that funders understand and support those true costs.

I think the old adage is true, people will treat you the way you ask to be treated.  If a nonprofit acts like a charity, people will treat it like one.  Nonprofits need to stand up and demand to be treated as critical, equal partners in creating solutions.

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Making a Social Impact Market Play

Nonprofits exist in a strange netherworld between market forces and social change. They are trying to create a solution to a social problem, but as much as some might like to deny it, that desired social change exists within a market economy. That means that in order to be successful, nonprofits, just like any business, must continually analyze, understand and create strategies around whatever market forces are at play (competition for funding, clients, partnerships, inputs, results; increased/decreased regulation; changing client/funder demand; changing input costs; changing technology, etc.).

The tendency among some of those working toward social impact is to assume that simply because they are doing good in the world, those market forces can somehow be ignored or dismissed. Good will win out over the market. But it is not a binary system. Organizations that are working toward good are very much subject to market forces and must be strategic about how to address them.

Which brings me to a SWOT analysis, an often misunderstood tool that can help nonprofits do just that.  Most people understand that a SWOT analysis helps an organization break down the internal forces at work (their own strengths and weaknesses) and the external opportunities and threats that face them in the marketplace. But once these are uncovered, the more important step is to translate those realities into strategies that increase the nonprofit’s position in the market, whether that is increased profit, increased social impact, or both.

Strengths are the resources, capabilities, core competencies, and experience that could be used to develop a competitive advantage, or a better position in the marketplace than their competitors, such as:

  • Brand name
  • Funder/investor retention
  • Access to clients/customers
  • Access to inputs required to create the desired social impact
  • Cash reserves
  • Demonstrated social impact
  • Use/understanding of critical technology

Weaknesses are things that the nonprofit should possess in order to create a competitive advantage, but happen to lack. They can also be the flip side of a strength, such as a nonprofit that has a large staff (strength) but whose large staff makes it difficult to be flexible towards changing program requirements (weakness). Some examples:

  • Lack of staff talent/expertise
  • Limited network/relationships/alliances
  • Low funder/investor retention rates
  • Limited access to inputs required to create social impact
  • Lack of demonstrated results

The External Analysis exposes the situation in the marketplace and how that situation positively (opportunities) or negatively (threats) could affect the organization. Opportunities are external realities that could result in greater social impact, profit and growth for the organization:

  • Growing social need/customer demand
  • New technologies that could decrease costs to deliver programs/products/services
  • Relaxation of government regulations for addressing the social challenge
  • Declining competitors for funding or program delivery

Threats are situations that have the potential to diminish the organization’s social impact/profitability/growth. For example:

  • Increasing competitors
  • Stricter regulations
  • Increasing cost of inputs
  • Diminishing client/customer demand
  • Changing technology

But this analysis gets you nowhere if you don’t take the most important next step, which is to craft strategies from the results. The various strategies for the organization going forward fall into four categories:

  1. Strength-Opportunity Strategies that use the organization’s strengths to go after external opportunities. For example when a nonprofit uses their strong brand name (strength) to expand into a newly emerging client need (opportunity). Teach for America has recently decided to take a version of their teacher recruitment program to schools outside of America.
  2. Weakness-Opportunity Strategies that overcome a nonprofit’s weaknesses in order to go after external opportunities. For example when Kiva recently decided to give their loaners whose demand outstripped loanee supply (weakness) an opportunity to make loans to American entrepreneurs whose demand for loans due to the bank crisis and the recession were growing (opportunity).
  3. Strength-Threat Strategies that harness a nonprofit’s strengths in order to overcome its vulnerability to external threats. For example a nonprofit that harnesses its well-connected board (strength) to strengthen their relationships with foundations and individual donors who are being bombarded by an increasing number of nonprofits (threat).
  4. Weakness-Threat Strategies that create a defensive plan for preventing the nonprofit’s weaknesses from making it susceptible to external threats. For example when a nonprofit decides to go through the patent process to guard its unprotected results-achieving curriculum (weakness) from growing competitors (threat).

Creating and then employing these strategies allows a social impact organization to be proactive and opportunistic about market dynamics–market dynamics which very much play into whether the solution they seek will come to fruition.

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Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 Nonprofits, Strategy 1 Comment


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