OUR AMBITION FOR NON-PROFIT ORGANISATIONS
We passionately believe that non-profit organisations have a vital role to play in tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing our society. As non-commercial, non-governmental organisations, they are free from the need to maximise value for their shareholders or to prioritise the needs of the nation as a whole. When functioning well, non-profits give people from all walks of life a way to raise their voice, to offer their ideas, and to channel their skills towards the shared question of how to make the world a better place.
Non-profits already achieve amazing things – but with better support we think they could do much, much more. We want to see more non-profits:
LEAD SOCIAL CHANGE
We want to see more non-profits act as leaders and creators of social change. Non-profits often harbour huge amounts of knowledge, passion and experience, but this can be held back if they are not empowered to develop their thinking and test out their ideas. In the worst case we have seen non-profits acting simply as "cheap sub-contractors", competing with each other for tightly prescribed service contracts.
We want more non-profits to have the confidence to publicly share the real nuance of their work, both good and bad. In other words, to engage in genuine discussions with stakeholders about what works well, rather than to promote themselves with impressive-sounding but ultimately meaningless numbers of “people served”.
INVEST IN IMPACT
We want more non-profits to invest in real impact: to put money behind promising new ideas or projects that show great potential, even when that work doesn’t deliver short-term gains or catchy marketing soundbites.
1. NON-PROFITS NEED TO FOCUS ON IMPACT MORE STRONGLY IN THE WAY THAT THEY DESIGN, IMPLEMENT AND ASSESS THEIR PROGRAMMES
For Just Cause, a non-profit “focuses on impact” if the board and staff at all levels:
Have a clear, shared idea of what difference (impact) they are really trying to make.
Regularly assess what difference they are making and continually reflect on how to further improve.
Allocate resources and design programmes in a way that aims to maximise impact as the top priority.
Non-profits can help establish this way of working by following three main steps. First, taking the time to develop an “impact framework” – i.e. a shared vision of what is your end-goal and how you think your work will actually achieve that goal. Second, investing in collecting the right data to understand your impact. Third, establishing and implementing a plan to ensure that impact data is regularly reviewed and discussed at all levels, with incentives to reward those who take concrete steps to further improve. In the last few years, some people have started to refer to this overall process as “impact management”.
SERVICES, RESOURCES AND EVENTS TO SUPPORT NON-PROFITS AROUND IMPACT MANAGEMENT
2. FUNDERS NEED TO TAKE A MORE STRATEGIC APPROACH IN HOW THEY PARTNER WITH NON-PROFITS
For Just Cause, a funder takes a “strategic approach” if they:
Select their focus areas and partners based on thorough research and a nuanced analysis of the opportunities (rather than simply rewarding those non-profits that shout the loudest).
Empower non-profit partners to spend significant time researching and planning programmes at the start – and then evaluating and re-planning as time goes by. I.e. allocate time and resources for this work wherever needed; and provide constructive suggestions and prompts to help motivate, sense-check and deepen this work.
Commit to long-term funding agreements with incentives and reporting requirements designed to reward learning and improvement, not simply the achievement of basic outputs.
This way of working links closely to what some people describe as “venture philanthropy”.