54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
If you work with a nonprofit as a staff member, volunteer or board member, you already know that nonprofit management is not as easy as it looks. The authors of this book agree. They studied nonprofits, the third largest industry in the U.S., for four years and identified 12 "exemplary" organizations that share six similarities in best practices.
Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, The Heritage Foundation, Share Our Strengths and eight other nonprofits made the list. This helpful study also dispels six myths about effective nonprofits. Example: not all organizations are perfectly managed, have brand-name awareness, or breakthrough new ideas. They don't wordsmith their mission statements, they live them. And--they're big on implementation and execution (my favorite.)
Read chapter one and you'll have the gist of the whole book, especially the six practices: 1) Advocate and serve, 2) Make markets work, 3) Inspire evangelists, 4) Nurture nonprofit networks, 5) Master the art of adaptation, and 6) Share leadership. The best nonprofits realize it's not about egos and logos.
The authors intentionally excluded religious organizations and churches from the study (a flaw, in my opinion since The Salvation Army and others have much to teach us). But you'll benefit from these new insights. Many nonprofits will especially appreciate learning how these exemplary organizations turn volunteers into evangelists.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
After completing five years of rigorous and extensive research on 1,435 "Fortune 500" companies during a 30-year period (1965-1995), Jim Collins and his associates selected only eleven that met their admittedly "very tough standards" for greatness. (Note: Collins also wrote Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great, published four years later.) Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant acknowledge that Collins' book was a "real inspiration to them" as they surveyed more than 2,000 CEOs of nonprofits before selecting only twelve for examination in their book, Forces for Good. As is true of several other outstanding business books, the work on this one was driven by a question: "What makes great nonprofits great?" What Crutchfield and McLeod learned is shared in this volume.
It is worth noting that, until recent years, most of the books and articles about nonprofits (at least those with which I am familiar) suggested that they had much to learn from exemplary for-profit organizations. It may have been Peter Drucker who first recognized that the business world could learn much of value from studying the best-managed nonprofits. He wrote an article published in Harvard Business Review in July of 1989, "What Business Can Learn from Nonprofits," that was later reprinted in Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management, in 1998. Drucker suggests that The Salvation Army is characteristic of the best nonprofit organizations, especially in terms of motivating knowledge workers and increasing their productivity. In successful nonprofit enterprises, "amateurs are being replaced with unpaid staff members, many of whom are managers and professionals in their for-pay jobs. They volunteer because they believe in the mission; they stay because they are given responsibility for meaningful tasks, held accountable for their performance and rewarded with training and the chance to take on more demanding assignments."
According to Crutchfield and Grant, high-impact nonprofits (i.e. those who have "created real social change...have come up with innovative solutions to social problems, and have spread these ideas nationally or internationally") demonstrate all or most of six practices:
1. They both advocate what is urgently needed and commit resources in response to that need
2. Are "pragmatic idealists" who combine social values with business "smarts" to "make markets work"
3. Build a community of evangelists as a powerful force for social change by communicating their mission, vision, and values as well as creating meaningful experiences
4. Adopt and maintain a network mind-set to share resources and empower other organizations
5. Constantly adapt and modify their tactics and initiatives while maintaining "the balance between stifling bureaucracy and unbridled creativity"
6. Support growth by developing high-impact leadership internally, widely distributing authority as well as responsibility among those involved in the given enterprise
Crutchfield and Grant devote a separate chapter to each of these six, then suggest in Chapter Nine how to put them in action. By now they have answered the original question. Great nonprofits are great because they are "working with and through others, as counterintuitive as that might seem. It's about leveraging every sector of society to become a force for good....[moreover] high-impact organizations bridge boundaries and work with others to achieve greater levels of change than they could accomplish alone."
What about all the other nonprofits? How can they make what Collins characterizes as a "leap" from being only mediocre or good to great? Stated another way, how can these other nonprofits also become effective agents of change and have high-impact? Those who lead them "need to bridge boundaries and understand how to influence without authority. They will need to see the larger system and their role in it - not just their own interests...[They must] be influential enough to convince the CEOs of global corporations to change their ways, and to make the business case, as well as the moral case, for doing so...Above all else, nonprofit leaders must learn how to share power an empower others - if they aren't already doing so." The six practices can help to guide and inform their efforts while leading the change initiatives that are needed. What to do and where to start? For specific and practical advice, please see Figures 9.1-9.6 inserted sequentially throughout pages 214-220. That advice is best revealed within the narrative so I shall say no more about it.
Because the nature of philanthropy is changing as donors seek more evidence of impact from their donations, even the high-impact nonprofits must make adjustments to sustain their effectiveness and thereby their appeal to benefactors. "Rather than just providing services or a basic charity, they're doing much more. In the process, they are redefining what it means to be an effective nonprofit." Keep in mind that in this context, Crutchfield and Grant are talking about the twelve exemplary nonprofits. Even they must complete the transition from the old paradigm to the new paradigm. (Please see Exhibit 9.8 on page 223.) "Non profits operate at the intersection of society's major sectors. The best of these organizations take advantage of their unique role and their unprecedented opportunity to create greater impact. To win at the social change game, it's not about being the biggest or the fastest or even the best-managed, nonprofit. The most powerful, influential, and strategic organizations [begin italics] transform others [end italics] to become forces for good."
The importance of adaptability cannot be exaggerated. At one point in their narrative, they refer to The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations in which Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom examine the impact of decentralized networks. "Spider organizations have rigid hierarchies, top-down leadership, and centralized decision-making" whereas "Starfish [organizations] are highly decentralized, relying on peer-to-peer relationships, widely distributed leadership, and collaborative communities united by shared values. Decapitate a spider and it will die; with the headless starfish, cut off an arm and it will regenerate into a new arm while the old arm grows into a new starfish. That is why Crutchfield and Grant view the starfish model as a perfect metaphor for nonprofits. Hence the title of this review.
Those who share my high regard for Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant's brilliant book are urged to check out the aforementioned Drucker article as well as Brafman and Beckstrom's book. Also, Drucker's Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices, Tom Ralser's ROI For Nonprofits: The New Key to Sustainability, a Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement, and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2007
I so often hear that the nonprofit sector needs to learn from the busines world. Although books like Built to Last and Good to Great offer insights, what the nonprofit sector really needed was a book that focused on our sector. Thanks to these authors, we now have that book. Their insight into what makes a great nonprofit great have already impacted how I think about organizations I work with -- and which organizations I want to support.
This is a must read for those who work in the nonprofit sector or for students interested in entering the field.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
Crutchfield and Grant have made a significant contribution to the field with their work "Forces for Good" and the title of their work is well chosen. Books that bring insight to people in the nonprofit world are themselves "forces for good" as they enable those same people to better fulfill the important work of the organizations they serve. This is one such book.
The work outlines six practices of high-impact nonprofits that are concrete, practical and well presented. For people who gravitate toward working in the nonprofit sector, the fact that these organizations often act as forces for good can be a primary attraction. In simple terms, nonprofit people want to change the world and, consequently, impact counts. The list of six practices are invaluable and will likely become widely known and discussed.
If you are a nonprofit leader (or work with one... or hope to be one) this book is a very valuable read. The book's case studies are both inspirational and aspirational. It is refreshing to see that the findings from the research defy much conventional wisdom about how nonprofits become powerful change agents. It is now on my favorite work-related book list and I have a feeling that I will be returning frequently to "Forces for Good" as I navigate the waters ahead for the nonprofit that I run.
Executive Director, Founder
Little Kids Rock
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2007
A fun book to read, very inspiring.
But not credible as a study--this is not Good to Great for the nonprofit sector. There are no comparisons with less effective nonprofits--remember that Good to Great involved side-by-side comparisons with a matched group of not-so-great companies. The lessons in Forces for Good all make sense, but it just isn't possible to know whether these are the lessons that really matter, or whether the authors might have found something entirely different if they had looked at nonprofits that are not so hot.
Compare Habitat, for example, with the Red Cross. The Red Cross has evangelists (hundreds of thousands of them showed up for Katrina), it uses the market (a $2 billion blood business that controls 43% of the market), it has a blend of service and advocacy, it shares leadership (perhaps too much--unwieldy board, semi-autonomous chapters)....The point is that you have to have a matching group of 12 not-such-great nonprofits against which to compare the Forces for Good. This book doesn't have it.
Cases are fun and the organizations are good to a point--am I the only one who wonders whether the Heritage Foundation is really a force for good, or just an organization that uses these lessons to undermine a just society?. But don't bet the farm on these lessons. They could be right, but they could be wrong. The book was widely advertised as a Good to Great, but it falls well short.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2007
I found many of the insights to be right on the money in "Forces for Good." I particularly appreciated the emphasis on pragmatism. Disregarding practicality can be your Achilles heal when working in the non-profit sector. Practitioners may be passionate about their missions, but they tend to under-appreciate the context in which they work (competing demands for resources and the expectations for accountability). In chapter six the authors quoted Al Brislain of America's Second Harvest, "You have to adapt to the environment around you. You can't impose your reality on your environment." Well said. After all, it does far more good for the community to actually accomplish something than to wish things were different. I appreciate the dose of reality served up by the authors.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2007
Forces for Good is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in helping nonprofits become better at doing what they already do well--serving communities and changing the world. I work in the private sector and serve on the boards of two nonprofit organizations in Portland, ME, and I am drawing on the lessons in this book as I think about how to help these groups raise money, improve their services, and expand their presence in our local community. I am definitely going to recommend it to the leadership of the groups, and to all of my firiends who serve on boards and work closely with nonprofit groups.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2007
I highly recommend Forces for Good to all nonprofit leaders and philanthropists striving to increase the impact of their giving. This could well be a landmark book in helping turn the tide of how social capital should (and hopefully will) flow in greater abundance to the most effective organizations.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2007
What is particularly ground-breaking about this book is that the six characteristics identified by Crutchfield and McLeod Grant result in one elegant measure of nonprofit success -- impact. The 12 organizaitons studied/featured in this book changed the systems in which they worked. Whether in the areas of housing finance, education or hunger prevention, these exemplary nonprofits fundamentally altered the prevaling frames and discussions. For me, this is precisely the return on investment nonprofit executives should be striving for and investors in the social sector should be demanding.
For the participants in this growing $1 trillion nonprofit industry who grapple with how to balance the discipline and management of great for-profit companies with a mission-oriented purpose, this book is an achievement. The authors translate, in practical terms, how to effectively implement business practices to accomplish maximum social change.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have been growing rapidly and professionalizing at an unprecedented pace in the last 25 years. However, professionalization in the nonprofit sector is not necessarily the same thing as in the for-profit sector. This book articulates new and extremely relevant ideas for how to be more effective in achieving massive social impact. Scaling the organization is no longer synonymous with scaling impact and social change, which is our ultimate goal. We need a new way of thinking about impact and we need to re-think the reigning paradigms about effective organizational structure, strategy-design and leadership philosophy.