Collectively, high impact nonprofits that are successful implement sustainable business practices and organize citizens to act on such issues. Many believe that to become a great nonprofit organization, that one simply needs to build a great organization, then expand it to reach more people. Instead, high-impact nonprofits work with organizations and individuals outside their organization to generate greater impact than they could have reached alone.

A great example is, Teach for America, this organization transitioned from being known as a struggling startup to a powerful force for education reform in the US. This nonprofit organization is now one of the most popular attractions for some of the top college graduates in the country. Teach for America has been so effective that it is now the recruiter of choice on many Ivy League campuses, often outcompeting elite firms. Graduates who went through the program are now launching charter schools, running for political office, managing foundations, and working as school principals across the country. In these capacities, they can effect change at the systemic level – not just child by child or classroom by classroom, but at the school, district, and state levels.

The secret to success for nonprofit organizations depend on on how the organization activates each sector of society to be a force for good. The level of accomplishment for a nonprofit has more to do with how the organization works outside their boundaries rather than how they manage internally. There seems to be a trend in the practices of the most impactful nonprofits in the country.

  1. Aid and Advocate: Some of these high impact nonprofits begin with providing great programs, but eventually they will not be able to achieve large scale change with those programs alone. So they add policy advocacy to acquire government resources and to change legislation.
  2. Make Markets Work: High-impact nonprofits can no longer rely on traditional notions of charity, or to see business as an enemy. These nonprofits now find ways to work with markets and help companies “do good while doing well.”
  3. Inspire Volunteers to do More: High-impact nonprofits build strong communities of supporters who help them achieve their larger goals. They value volunteers, donors, and advisers not only for their time, money, and guidance, but also for their inspiration to spread the word.
  4. Nonprofit Networking: High impact organizations help their peers succeed, building networks of nonprofit associates and dedicating remarkable time and energy to progressing their areas of interest.
  5. Adaptation: High-impact nonprofits respond to changing circumstances with innovation.
  6. Distribute Leadership: They distribute leadership within their organizations and throughout their external nonprofit networks, empowering others to lead.
    Every successful nonprofit organization doesn’t necessarily use each of these six practices or use them all in the same way. However, most nonprofit organizations that are impactful continuously move in new directions. Also, by working with others they find it easier to increase their level of impact.

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