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Filling Essential Gaps in Nonprofit Leadership

By William Meehan and Kim Jonker.

New research shows that most nonprofits fall short in important areas of performance. But stakeholders who operate at a systems level can do a lot to help solve this problem.

For nonprofits to leverage the potential of new technologies and new ideas—from mobile connectivity to randomized evaluation—everyone with a stake in the sector must work to narrow the distance between what nonprofit organizations might achieve and what they are actually achieving today.

However, our findings from a recent survey we conducted—which drew responses from more than 3,000 stakeholders in the sector, including executives, staff members, and board members at nonprofits and foundations—cast a revealing, and in some cases troubling, light on crucial performance gaps that exist in the sector.

After spending several decades researching, advising, and helping lead nonprofits, we have come to believe that the best nonprofits are able to master seven elements that constitute what we call “strategic leadership”: mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, organization and talent, funding, and board governance. These elements work together as a system. An organization that exhibits strong performance in all seven areas becomes an “engine of impact” and is capable of achieving real impact on a scale that is adequate to
current needs.

This is a sample from the full article available from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This sample has been reproduced with permission from the SSIR, and you can view the full article here.


William F. Meehan III is the Lafayette Partners Lecturer in Strategic Management at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and a director emeritus of McKinsey & Company. He is co-author of Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.

Kim Starkey Jonker is president and CEO of King Philanthropies and a lecturer in management at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is co-author of Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.


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