The Nonprofit Impact System™

What is The Nonprofit Impact System™?

The Nonprofit Impact System is a method you can use to optimize every aspect of your nonprofit for maximum mission impact.

Based on a wide body of research about what makes some nonprofits succeed while others struggle, as well as our real-world experience with hundreds of organizations of all shapes and sizes, the Nonprofit Impact System™ provides a practical, actionable method for achieving the organizational effectiveness you have always dreamed of.

The Nonprofit Impact System

It includes the four key elements every nonprofit must master to achieve its full potential: Focus, Strategy, People and Progress. Learn more below or begin using the Nonprofit Impact System™ today.

Why is the Nonprofit Impact System™ important?

The challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our families are significant. Our planet has lost half its wildlife in the last 50 years. Ten percent of the world’s population still lives in extreme poverty. Hunger has been on the rise globally since 2015. Here in America, Black and Latino students continue to see fewer opportunities for educational advancement. Economic inequality continues to grow. Death from gun violence has reached its highest rate in over two decades. And many of the problems and inequities that already existed in our communities are only growing due to fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.

Every day, nonprofits are taking meaningful action to combat these problems, but organizations face obstacles that hold them back from doing all they could to truly make an impact. In fact, most nonprofit CEOs report that producing results continues to get more and more challenging, and 30% of nonprofits fail within 10 years. Demand is growing, resources are shrinking, competition is fierce, trust in nonprofits is declining, and the nonprofit starvation cycle is accelerating as funders and supporters continue to look to the wrong metrics – like overhead ratios – to determine nonprofit effectiveness.

These challenges are substantial, and to overcome them, nonprofits need a reliable, proven system for optimizing operations and ensuring effectiveness.

The Nonprofit Impact System™ is the answer.

How Does The Nonprofit Impact System™ work?

The Nonprofit Impact System™  includes four dimensions: Focus, Strategy, People, and Progress. Within each of these four dimensions, the System includes several critical components and proven practices nonprofits must develop to maximize their effectiveness. 

Organizations that use the Nonprofit Impact System typically move through it sequentially, in the order that follows:

FOCUS

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone. And while the need for their services is greater than ever, an organization should only exist if it is uniquely positioned to make a specific impact that no other organization can make in quite the same way — if it has a valid reason for being

The Focus element of the Nonprofit Impact System™ begins with establishing your organization’s reason for being, or exploring mergers or collaborations if you determine you don’t have one. 

However, simply having a valid reason for being is not enough. In order to become financially sustainable, scale, and drive more impact, organizations must also build focus around their reason for being both internally and externally. This is achieved by establishing and communicating your:

  • Vision: the future you would create if your organization achieved all its goals
  • Mission: the work you are doing every day to drive toward your vision – what you do, who you do it for, and the intended impact
  • Core Values: a set of guiding principles that shape the behavior and decision making of everyone on a nonprofit’s team.
  • Identity: The messaging you use to talk about your organization and the brand that makes it recognizable to those you need to reach. This includes:
    • An elevator speech
    • Key messages
    • A name and tagline
    • A logo, visual identity and brand expression

STRATEGY

Every organization needs a clear set of goals and plans for advancing its mission and bringing its vision to life.  Organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ develop and use the following types of strategies:

A strategic plan for the entire organization, its operations, and its growth, maintenance or change, including objectives and key results (OKRs) around which work will focus over the next 3-5 years

A programmatic strategy for each of the organization’s key programs and services, which are focused on the direct delivery of the organization’s mission

A fundraising strategy for the organization’s fundraising and development efforts, which are focused on strengthening existing funding sources and developing new ones

A marketing strategy for the organization’s marketing, communications and external affairs efforts, which are focused on raising awareness and encouraging engagement from stakeholders

The strategic plan applies to every facet of the organization at a high level. Programmatic strategies, fundraising strategies and marketing strategies are all developed in direct response to the strategic plan.

The sector has a healthy habit of developing plans and an unhealthy habit of tucking them away on a shelf. For a strategy to fulfill its intended purpose as the guiding force behind your organization’s work, you need to develop plans you’ll actually use. You also need to develop plans that are agile and capable of changing course when needed. This means taking both a short-term view and a long-term view in planning. Organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ adopt a long-term vision, but set specific objectives and key results annually and quarterly. They also commit to bringing their plans to life by implementing the practices in the Progress element of the system.

PEOPLE

People are at the center of the Nonprofit Impact System™ because it is based on our Shared Power Strategy™ philosophy, which says that in order for your organization to be truly effective and equitable, your board, leadership and staff must share the power to shape your nonprofit’s strategy with your external stakeholders, including volunteers, funders, and community members, and most importantly, the people who use your programs and services (your beneficiaries). Those people must have meaningful opportunities to provide input and insights and feedback that will inform your strategic plan, marketing plan or fundraising plans.

If your organization wishes to leverage the power of the Nonprofit Impact System™, you must conduct a comprehensive audit of your stakeholders and determine how best to involve them in shaping your strategy and providing feedback on your approach. Options can include everything from basic surveys to intensive stakeholder advisory committees. For organizations with a wide range of stakeholders (most nonprofits) and those who work with groups like youth, people living with disabilities or those experiencing trauma, stakeholder engagement can be extremely challenging and complex. But that’s precisely why it’s so important.

The lynchpin of the Nonprofit Impact System™ is the Progress element. Even with a clear focus, smart strategies, and the right people in the right roles, it can be hard to get everyone on your team to take consistent, coordinated action to advance your mission. The Progress element solves this problem by building a culture of accountability and putting processes in place that keep everyone on track. These processes typically include:

Accountability systems such as activity plans that lay out exactly who must do what for the next 12 months in accordance with your strategies, and objective and key result (OKR) dashboards that make it easy to see how your organization is performing against the results you set out to achieve.

Meeting schedules that help you bring the right people together weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually to move your strategy forward, assess progress and make adjustments.

Ongoing measurement optimization practices that help you understand what’s working, what’s not and optimize your strategy accordingly, for the good of the people and communities you serve.

How do organizations use the Nonprofit Impact System™?

There are three ways use the Nonprofit Impact System™:

1) Do-it-Yourself

Organizations can implement the four components of the Nonprofit Impact System™ on their own, using free resources like the ones on this page.

2) With high-level support from Prosper Strategies across all components

Organizations can hire Prosper Strategies to facilitate a two-day – one week workshop to help them work through all elements of the Nonprofit Impact System™ at a high level, in a condensed time frame. Optionally, Prosper Strategies can then provide deep support in specific areas where it is needed (i.e. a rebrand or Strategic Plan), or facilitate the quarterly checkup, annual planning, or both).

3) With deep support from Prosper Strategies on specific components

Organizations can hire Prosper Strategies to develop (or facilitate the development of) specific elements from within the four components. For example, Prosper Strategies can facilitate the discovery of your reason for being, help you revamp your mission and vision statement, create new organizational messaging, facilitate the development of your strategic plan or marketing or fundraising plan, or perhaps most importantly, help you design an approach to engaging your stakeholders in shaping your strategies. Based on your needs, we can host workshops and create the plans/strategies/documentation that comes out of those workshops, or focus on workshop facilitation only (in which case you’d then create the plans/strategies/documentation yourself).

Organizations can also use various combinations of these three options.

How should our organization get started?

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The Nonprofit Impact System™ begins with an online assessment called the Nonprofit Health Exam. It will allow us to assess your organization’s health across the four key components – Focus, Strategy, People and Progress – so you can determine where to begin your efforts to implement the system. Then, if you are interested in going beyond the DIY approach, you’ll talk to an advisor at Prosper Strategies to get a better understanding of how we might partner with you to bring the Nonprofit Impact System™ to life. Once you’ve signed on to work with us, we’ll provide a roadmap that details how we’ll move through optimizing your organization together. Typically, this work will begin with a research-focused discover phase, and then move on to a series of workshops and the creation of elements like a mission statement, strategic plan, fundraising plan, etc.

Outcomes: organizations that implement the full Nonprofit Impact System™ can say the following...

  • We have deeply and authentically involved our diverse range of stakeholders in shaping our organization’s strategy, while putting significant emphasis on the people and communities we serve.
  • We have a vision and mission statement that accurately communicates why we exist, and it has been properly communicated to all staff, board members, and external stakeholders.
  • Our core values are clear – we are hiring, reviewing, rewarding and firing around them. They guide our decision-making.
  • Our messaging and identity reflect our mission, vision and values.
  • We have a strategic plan that is based on the priorities of our stakeholders, updated yearly and optimized quarterly.
  • Programs/services, marketing/communications and development/fundraising each have their own strategies and plans that have been developed in direct response to the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Our strategic plan is shared externally and we report on progress against it to our stakeholders regularly, while asking for their feedback.
  • Internally, everyone has access to the organization’s strategies and knows who is responsible for what.
  • Our talent reflects the diversity of the people and communities we serve, and our work environment emphasizes inclusion and equity for everyone on our team.
  • Everyone is clear on what they’re accountable for.
  • Everyone on our team is engaged in regular meetings to move our strategies forward.
  • We have a system for receiving regular input from all our stakeholders.
  • We know what success looks like and use clear metrics to define it.
  • We have a dashboard for tracking financial performance, goal progress and outcomes against metrics.
  • We have clear objectives and key results that we measure against regularly.
  • We are agile. While we stick to our focus and strategies, we also know when to make adjustments and do so for the right reasons – to work smarter in service of our mission.

Free Resources to Help You Implement the Nonprofit Impact System™

Trusted by changemaking organizations like …
bgca
united-way-logo
mccormick
… and many more.

Are you ready to put the Nonprofit Impact System™ to work for your organization? Let’s talk.

Let’s discuss your goals and what we can do to help you get there.