Home > Charitable Giving, Resources > The Cure for the Not-for-Profit Crisis

The Cure for the Not-for-Profit Crisis

 

by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi via Harvard Business Review

There is a crisis in the not-for-profit sector. Since the great recession began, donations to the largest charities in the U.S. have dropped by billions — down 11% in 2010 alone, according to a recent report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. This was the worst decline since the Chroniclebegan ranking its “Philanthropy 400” list of America’s largest fund-raising charities in 1990. Leaders of philanthropic and other non-profit organizations naturally blame the economy for this problem; and many expect things to get worse as the economic malaise drags on.

 

But the financial meltdown has not affected all charities and not-for-profits equally. It is the more versatile, general-purpose charities — including such well-known, diverse institutions as The United Way Worldwide and the Salvation Army — that are faring the worst. For more tightly focused not-for-profits, such as the Cleveland Clinic and the network of Food Banks around the country, the decline is not nearly as sharp.

 

Why the disparity? Our own research on organizational strategy and leadership more broadly suggests a reason. Since 2010, we’ve been conducting an ongoing survey of managers’ attitudes about the strategies of their organizations (click here to take the not-for-profit version of the profiler). More than 65% of the respondents from the non-profit sector said it was a significant challenge to bring day-to-day decisions in line with their organization’s overall strategy. When asked about their frustration factors, 76% (the largest group by far, and a larger percentage than their for-profit counterparts) named “too many conflicting priorities.” When asked about their organization’s core capabilities — distinctive things their association could do better than anyone else — only 29% said these supported their organization’s strategy, and almost 80% said that their association’s efforts to grow had led to waste.

 

All of these results suggest that, while the hit to fundraising has hurt many not-for-profits, the more fundamental core problem is strategic. These institutions lack a strategy for connecting their mission with their ability to deliver. In short, this is a crisis of coherence.

Read the rest of the article: The Cure for the Not-for-Profit Crisis – Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi – Harvard Business Review.

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