7Attributes of Growth Nonprofits

Updated: Sep 6, 2020

There are Seven Attributes that Characterize Growth Nonprofit Organizations.They are Leadership, Talent, Strategy, Execution, Funding, Stakeholders, and Systems. In this blog post, I’m going to do a deeper dive into each of these Seven Attributes and talk more about how each of these attributes help non profit leaders and nonprofit organizations respond strategically to the changing reality for every nonprofit organization in a way that can help the organization scale up its growth and impact and have even greater impact with the people they’re tasked to serve and the communities they’re seeking to make a difference in.

1.Core Leadership Functional Reality - The Executive Leadership team is authentic, healthy, and aligned.

In my work with nonprofit organizations, I’ve encountered more than one nonprofit organizations where the leadership team was anything but authentic with each other, anything but healthy as a team or individually, anything but aligned as a team. And they were shocked that there were challenges in the organization as a whole. If your organization’s Executive leadership team aren’t authentic with each other and aren’t healthy in how they work together, and aren’t aligned in terms of the overall direction of the organization, I would bet your organization has a lot of drama that is interfering with day to day operations and overall team dynamics. The most effective nonprofit organizations I’ve worked with have had Executive leadership team that were brutally honest with each other and authentic, they were healthy as a team and they were all pulling in the same direction. They were also the organizations that were having the greatest impact in serving their communities and the people they were trying to help.

2. Core Functional Reality - Leaders and managers relentlessly pursue a culture of trust, results, and accountability.

The challenge for most nonprofits is hiring the best people to staff the organization. Given that nonprofits can rarely pay their employees and executive leadership team members what the private sector pays, they often settle for the person who will take the job for the money that’s being offered .One Executive Director described it to me this way, “We hire the best of the worst” As bad as that sounds, it’s true more often than most nonprofits would like to admit. Compound that with an executive leadership team that isn’t authentic, healthy, and aligned and you have a recipe for a disengaged workforce in the organization who don’t pursue anything relentlessly other than getting out the door at the end of their day. This is where the saying, “The speed of the leader, the speed of the team.”becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. the organizations I’ve worked with that had an executive leadership that was authentic, healthy, and aligned had leaders and managers who relentlessly pursued a culture of trust, results, and accountability which is rare in most nonprofit organizations.

This is a growth area for most nonprofits specifically as it relates to results and accountability.

The only results that many nonprofits track and measure are financial. Very few non-profits have a credible process for measuring meaningful impact. Very few nonprofits board hold the executive leadership team accountable to achieve measurable results. Those organizations that have credible metrics for impact usually generate more in funding because donors, corporate sponsor and foundations know their money will be put to good use and make a significant difference in the community for the people being served through the organization’s programs and services.

3. The organization’s strategy provides a unique and valuable position in the market, and can be stated in one phrase.

Michael Porter the strategic planning guru defines Strategy this way, “ Strategy is the creation of a unique and valuable position, involving a different set of activities.”

Many nonprofits do not have a solid, well thought out strategy and a clear plan to execute that strategy with identified measurable outcomes, goals and identified accountabilities for each of the goals and the outcomes, let alone a sense of how what a given nonprofit offers by way of its programs and services is unique and different from pre-existing programs and services delivered by other nonprofit agencies in the community. That creates a significant challenge for thee executive leadership team. How can you be aligned if there’s nothing tangible to be aligned to? How can the people who work for the organization be clear on exactly what it is the organization is about and where it’s going and how what they do individually by way of their job function helps the organization get to where it wants to be

4. The organization has annual, quarterly, and personal priorities that are visible, measured, and activated with a 13-week sprint.

Many nonprofits have grand dreams and ideas of what they’d like to accomplish and the impact they’d like to have. Few are able to take their dreams from the idea stage to the implementation stage. That’s because they have no defined process to identify the organizations priorities and identify clear accountabilities for each priority and measurable outcomes for each priority. Those that might have identified the organizations priorities have no clear process for revisiting the priorities and measuring the progress towards the identified outcome. Rarely is the person who is accountable for each priority held accountable if the priority is not on track to meet the stated outcome. Most often front line employees in the organization do not know what the organizational priorities are or how their job performance contributes to the organization achieving its priorities. because there is no clear strategy for communicating the organization’s priorities from the management team to the front line employee