I’m reading Forces For Good: Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant. The authors studied hundreds of successful nonprofits and distilled these six practices of the best ones:
- Advocate and serve. High-impact nonprofits do both — serve through programs and advocate for systemic change in their field. Churches can do the same — offer programs while also seeking to transform their communities. For example, our church hosted a Boys and Girls Club which was ethnically diverse. As a result, we were asked to host the Martin Luther King Day celebration in our community last year. Our culture was changed by our openness to program for the entire community.
- Make markets work. Hi-impact nonprofits partner with businesses (markets) in ways which are good for both. I’ve written about this before. Many churches are partnering with businesses, or even starting businesses, to engage their communities. These partnerships are mutually beneficial, not one-sided corporate sponsorships.
- Inspire evangelists. Great NPs inspire their volunteers, who in turn tell others. Interesting that business has taken over a New Testament concept — evangelism. If any group should inspire its volunteers/members to go out and tell others, it’s churches. I’m not talking about evangelism training, but enthusiastic church members who spontaneously talk up their church to others.
- Nurture nonprofit networks. Rather than seeing other NPs as competitors for the same dollars and volunteers, great NPs collaborate and cooperate with other NPs in areas where they share common cause. Did you ever notice how hard it is for churches to work together? We’re often not much better at this than secular organizations, but we should be. If we focus on Kingdom-building, rather than turf-protection we might have more impact on our communities.
- Master the art of adaptation. Change when change is necessary is what high-impact NPs do. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is essential to any organization’s survival. Of course, churches are notoriously poor at change and adaptation, and that’s part of the problem. Successful NPs adapt. Others die. Same for churches.
- Share leadership. Great nonprofits share leadership throughout the organization even when they have a charismatic leader. Throw away all your “be-a-leader-like-Moses” books and share leadership in your church. That, after all, is the point of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ — we all have something to contribute.
I think all of these concepts are translatable to churches. We’re actually trying to employ several of them in our church. Oh, one more thing — another characteristic is that high-impact nonprofits often do not excel in traditional measurements. In other words, high impact churches measure more than buildings, budgets, and baptisms, and may not set records in those traditional areas of measurement. What do you think?