The Nonprofit Impact System™

What is The Nonprofit Impact System™?

The Nonprofit Impact System is a complete set of tools and approaches 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
    • Stakeholder profiles
    • Key messages
    • A name and tagline
    • A logo, visual identity and brand expression

STRATEGY

Every organization needs a clear set of goals for advancing its mission and strategies for bringing those goals to life.  Without these elements in place, organizations struggle to turn their focus into action, leverage the power of their people, and make any sort of quantifiable progress toward their missions. 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

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 the lifeblood of every nonprofit. The People you choose to engage in solidifying your focus and carrying out your strategy will determine the progress you make in advancing your mission more than anything else. Nonprofits that find a way to get the right people to do the right things at the right time are unstoppable. As such, the People element of the Nonprofit Impact System™ emphasizes:

Leadership and Staff: Your nonprofit’s staff show up day in and day out to do the hard work that is required to carry out your strategies and make progress on your mission. But just as is the case with your board, your organization will struggle if you don’t have the right people in the right roles. Though structures vary from organization to organization, every nonprofit has five critical functions that must be resourced:

  • Leadership
  • Operations 
  • Programs/services
  • Development/fundraising
  • Marketing/communications

Each of these functions requires a unique combination of skill sets, experience, and personality from its staff. Organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ participate in a thorough process to determine whether they have the right people in the right seats, determine whether talent is diverse and representative of the people they serve, and make adjustments if not. The Nonprofit Impact System™ also involves a tool for developing the organization chart your nonprofit will need in the future based on its strategic plan. 

Board: Your organization is required to have a board that is responsible for its legal, fiduciary and strategic oversight, but not all nonprofit boards are created equal. Every board is unique, and dynamics change with every moment. Organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ make their boards more effective by:

  • Determining an ideal board structure, roles and composition based on their mission.
  • Setting diversity, equity and inclusion standards for their boards and assessing the current board against those standards.
  • Developing effective new member onboarding materials and board member handbooks.
  • Establishing a structure and standing agenda for board and committee meetings.
  • Ensuring board members have the tools and opportunities to meaningfully engage with the people and communities the organization serves.

External Stakeholders: Most nonprofits exist to engage and serve external stakeholders, so why do so many organizations leave external folks like clients, program participants, volunteers, donors, and policymakers out of their internal work? Organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ get input and feedback from their external stakeholders regularly in one or all of the following ways:

  • Building an advisory board of external stakeholders and meeting regularly (at least twice per year) to get their input and feedback on work in progress. This work in progress could include anything from a new mission statement you’re workshopping to a new program concept you’re considering launching. 
  • Tapping external stakeholders on an as-needed basis for feedback on work in progress.
  • Including people who are representative of the people and communities you serve in your governing board.

PROGRESS

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 a cadence of planning and meetings such as:

Annual Planning

  • Annual objective and key results planning
  • Annual activity planning
  • Annual all-staff updates
  • Annual impact reporting

Quarterly Checkup

  • Quarterly goal and priority setting
  • Quarterly leaders meeting
  • Quarterly board meeting
  • Quarterly all-staff update

Monthly Mission Meetings

Weekly Work Sessions

 

Ongoing measurement and adjustment.
Throughout this process, organizations that implement the Nonprofit Impact System™ also commit to
ongoing measurement and adjustment. Using the System, they set outcome and goal indicators during the strategic planning process and establish a set of organizational health metrics, and they also set quarterly goal indicators on the department and individual level. Then, they track everything in the Nonprofit Impact Dashboard™ and make adjustments on an ongoing basis based on what metrics indicate.

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 conduct assessments to determine if you have the right people in the right seats on your team. 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 a clear reason for being. Our impact is needed, and no other organization can do exactly what we do exactly the way we do it.
  • We have a vision and mission statement that accurately reflects our Focus, 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 reason for being, mission, vision and values.
  • We have a strategic plan that is based on our focus. It is 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 the public annually.
  • 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.
  • We have the right people in the right roles.
  • Everyone has goals and is focused on them.
  • Everyone is engaged in regular meetings. Recurring meetings from the Progress element happen at the same time every day/week/month/year.
  • We have a system for receiving regular input from all our stakeholders, such as donors, volunteers, community members, policymakers, and program participants/clients.
  • 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 financial gauges 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
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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.