Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, who just published the revised edition of their already excellent Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits, have an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about how some nonprofits managed to do well in the midst of the Great Recession.
The authors cite Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, City Year, the Heritage Foundation, and others as examples of doing the opposite of what most nonprofits did when the recession closed in. They embraced fundraising rather than backing away; they made bold moves rather than just try to run in place; and they seemed to turn into the wind with ideas that sometimes shook up their own establishments.
What characterizes these nonprofits is that they are all highly entrepreneurial. It wasn't just courage that drove them to face the plunging economy head on, but their experiences of being charities that work just a bit differently and always have. What resulted was not only more funds but also more impact.
Crutchfield and Grant found two themes for organizations that did well despite the economy:
- They stayed close to their donors. For instance, the Heritage foundation went directly to its donors to find out how their giving would be affected by the economy, and then acted on that knowledge by finding ways to cut back or fill the anticipated shortfall. They trimmed the budget but also doubled down on fundraising.
- They found opportunity in crisis. The Environmental Defense Fund made the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010 the centerpiece of massive fundraising. Habitat for Humanity rallied after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And Feeding America hurled itself into the economic crisis as unemployment skyrocketed along with demand for their services. Crisis often has the effect of bringing everyone together and results in stronger and more energized organizations.
These are all large organizations, but smaller ones can follow their lead. A great start is reading about the forces that drive high impact in Heather and Leslie's new edition of their book. They have added a section that deals specifically with smaller nonprofits with lots of examples of how many of them have adopted these practices. A synopsis of how the six practices work for local nonprofits also appears in Local Forces for Good in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Read more about entrepreneurial organizations:
- Are You a Social Entrepreneur?
- How to Make Your Nonprofit More Entrepreneurial
- How to Make a Profit Without Betraying Your Mission
Photo: Getty Images