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.