loren Eric Swanson: Forces for Good

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Forces for Good

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant. Jossey-Bass (2007)

Since Don Simmons notified me about the release of this book I had been looking forward to reading it. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and it came in the mail yesterday. My expectations were met and exceeded. Forces for Good is significant because it really defines the new world we are living in. The best nonprofits no longer think merely how to improve their management, operations, efficiencies or results but have figured out how to collaborate with other domains of society to change the world.

The book is the result of a two year study on what enabled the best nonprofits to have such high levels of impact. “Our findings were nothing like the conventional wisdom about nonprofit management we had read before” (1). Below I will place some quotations from the book that will whet your appetite for reading this gem.

“The new philanthropy is all about leverageing financial resources by investing in the most entrepreneurial agents of change—those that have figured out how to scale their impact exponentially. It’s the end of charity as we know it, and the beginning of high-impact philanthropy…. Merely building a great board or delivering adequate services or even running an efficient nonprofit is no longer enough. In order to be true forces for good, they must learn new ways of thinking and acting” (4).

Stages of nonprofit development

“Most early research on nonprofit scale focused on program replication as a means of expanding social impact….Then in the past decade, the focus shifted to building organizational capacity in order to deliver programs more efficiently…More recently, nonprofits have been told to look to the private sector for models of success, in part because of the increasing cross-fertilization between the sectors. ‘Nonprofits need to be run more like business,’ is the common refrain. Although we agree that nonprofits can learn proven practices from their for-profit counterparts, this still isn’t enough. Better management practices can create only incremental, not breakthrough, social change. And even the best businesses cannot tell us how to change the world, because that is not their primary purpose…. We believe the next leap is to see nonprofits as catalytic agents of change” (5).

What they learned

As we learned in the course of our research, great nonprofits follow six practices to achieve more impact…. In a nutshell, organizations seeking greater impact must learn how to do the following:
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 instead
Adapt to the changing environment and be as innovative and nimble as they are strategic
Share leadership, empowering others to be forces for good (6)

“We don’t have time for incremental change—we need dramtic change if we are to solve the complex global problems that plague us today. The stakes are high on all sides, and we must rise to the challenge. Ding anything less would squander this momentous opportunity to advance the grater good. Fortunately, these great nonprofits—and the lessons we can learn from them—can show us a new way” (7).

“The secret to success lies in how great organizations mobilize every sector of society—government, business, nonprofits and the public—to be a force for good. In other words, greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than how they manage their own internal operations…Great organizations work with and through others to create more impact than they ever could achieve alone” (19).

Great social sector organizations do these six things:
1. Advocate and serve. The more they advocate and serve, the greater the levels of impact they achieve.
2. Make markets work. Tapping into the power of self-interest and the laws of economics is far more effective than appealing to pure altruism.
3. Inspire evangelists. Great nonprofits see volunteers as much more than a source of free labor or membership dues. They create meaningful ways to engage individuals in emotional experiences that help them connect to the group’s mission and core values. The see volunteers, donors, and advisers not only for what they can contribute to the organization in terms of time, money, and guidance but also for what they can do as evangelists for their cause.
4. Nurture nonprofit networks. High-impact organizations help the competition succeed, building networks of nonprofit allies and devoting remarkable time and energy to advancing their larger field. They freely share wealth, expertise, talent, and power with their peers, not because they are saints, but because it’s in their self-interest to do so.

“The first four practices are more external; they represent how these groups dramatically expand their impact outside the borders of their own organizations. Each of these practices influences an external stakeholder group with which the nonprofit works so as to do more with less. In observing this external focus (ooooooh, I like that term!), we also realize that working outside the organization entails special practices inside that help these nonprofits relate more effectively to their environment. This led us to discern two additional internal practices that enable high-impact nonprofits to operate successfully in the outside world and bridge boundaries” (21)

5. Master the art of adaptation. They have mastered the ability to listen, learn, and modify their approach based on external cues—allowing them to sustain their impact and stay relevant.
6. Share leadership. These CEOs are exceptionally strategic and gifted entrepreneurs, but they also know they must share power in order to be as stronger force for good. They distribute leadership throughout their organization and their nonprofit network—empowering others to lead (21-22).

In the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the increased role the church can have in a community. Although multitudes of churches are still trying to mobilize their people into the community, there are other churches that have taken a step beyond this and are mobilizing the other sectors of society to engage the community. This is the an untapped leverage point for the church.

A couple of days ago, Sam Williams and I were in Las Vegas at Hope Baptist Church (www.hopebaptistchurch.com). We flew in early enough to catch a performance of the Blue Man Group—an incredibly innovative and interactive form of entertainment, art, media and music. Hope was planted out of a church in Woodstock, Georgia in 2001 and under the leadership of Vance Pitman, has an average a weekend attendance of over 2000. More impressive, they have planted four churches and helped start two others. The meeting was convened by Brian Audia, who leads a non-religious 501(c)(3) called Surgance (www.surgance.com). The mission is “Channeling waves of servanthood toward community transformation.” Great mission statement as it recognizes that catching a wave is easier than causing a wave. Brian was the one who headed up New Hope New York—an initiative that resulted in 37 church plants in NYC with a combined weekend attendance of over 3000. Interestingly they went to New York to serve the city to impact the city. “We worked with anyone and everyone,” says Brian. Brian is a connector and entrepreneur. He went to the president of the Bronx Borough, and asked, “What can we do to help?” The president asked them if they could paint inner city schools. Brian assured him that they could. That was the beginning of an initiative called “Paint the Town.” Brian visited MS80, a middle school in the heart of the Bronx. A teacher took him to his classroom and showed him a three-foot hole in a blackboard. “its been there since I got here, 23 years ago.” Pain the Town partnered with Benjamin Moore, who provided free or at cost paint and supplies, World Vision, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, The Staubach Group, NYU, Columbia University, etc.—private, public and social sectors. The result? In 2004, they mobilized 4000 volunteers, gave 53K man hours, painting 1, 300,000 sf of walls, $1,000,000 of value invested in schools. They had block parties of 1500-2000 people where 700 people filled out comment cards asking to be contacted. Working with Upward Sports, they hosted sport camps for the kids reaching some 15,000 kids. The work goes on. To date they have mobilized 33K cross-sector volunteers. “People are dying to give themselves to something that will outlast them,” says Vance, lead pastor at Hope. This year alone they have seen 200 people come to faith.

Paint the Town and Surgance are working models of what it will take to transform community. I read some place this year that “the future is here right now, but it is unevenly distributed.” That’s a great quote. I understand that to mean that if we look close enough we can see right now, through the positive deviants, innovators and early adoptors, what will be effective in the future.


Post a Comment

<< Home