What do Helen Keller International, Landesa, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Positive Coaching Alliance have in common? These organization—and many others featured in Engine of Impact—are all exemplary nonprofits that show how people can come together in common purpose to deliver extraordinary social impact.
In the second post for their Forbes column, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker evoke that ideal to make the case for the renewal and transformation of the American nonprofit sector. Titled “Our Call to Action: Joining Together for Social Impact,” the article notes that an immense intergenerational transfer of wealth is now under way in the United States. For that reason among others, Meehan and Jonker contend, the time is ripe “to refocus our nonprofit sector on impact, not just activity.”
You can read the article here.
Scaling up the message of a book, much like scaling up the impact of a nonprofit organization, depends on having the right platform to expand its reach. To help spread the ideas set forth in Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker have agreed to write a regular column for the Leadership section of the Forbes website. Every two weeks, they will post a brief, to-the-point article that leverages content from the book to shed light on current events and to offer practical insight for leaders.
The first entry in the series is a post titled “Philanthropists, Nonprofit Executives, and Board Members Must Awaken to the Dawn of the Impact Era.” It draws on recent developments in and around the social sector—the response to Hurricane Harvey, the decision by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to change its admission pricing policy, a new study on race and mobility in the United States—to illustrate the quest by nonprofit leaders to sharpen their focus on impact.
Meehan and Jonker argue that we are entering a new era—the Impact Era—and that nonprofits must rise to the occasion:
[T]he world of charitable giving is rapidly transforming as high-net-worth individuals turn their attention from the challenge of creating wealth to that of creating social impact. … The scale, timing, and focus of the portion of global wealth that will go to philanthropy in this era remain to be determined and are very much subject to influence—which is why nonprofits and their leaders must prepare themselves for this moment by earning the right to receive and leverage philanthropic investment.
You can access all posts for the Forbes column here.
A pair of writers who closely monitor new books on organizational leadership have posted notices about Engine of Impactthat highlight its value for nonprofit executives.
Kristin Clarke, books editor for Associations Now, covers Engine of Impact in the lead item of her column on new titles related to association management. She notes that the book outlines “steps to running a well-oiled nonprofit” and calls it “[a] CEO conversation starter and [a] thoughtful addition to the business literature.” (Last fall, Associations Now published an article on nonprofit board orientation that cited the book prominently.)
At Blogging on Business, Bob Morris cites his own experience in nonprofit organizations and praises Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker for “provid[ing] an abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel.” He concludes his review by analyzing the best audience for the book:
Who will derive the greatest benefit from the material? In my opinion, three groups: senior-level executives in all organizations in the nonprofit sector, senior-level executives in organizations in the for-profit sector who are responsible for increasing the impact of initiatives in the social sector; and decision-makers in capital sources that include VCs and banks as well as corporate and private foundations. For anyone in these groups, Engine of Impact is a must read.
Not all nonprofits are created equal, and not all nonprofits are equally ready to scale up their impact. In the last chapter of Engine of Impact, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker argue that there are different levels—and different kinds—of scale-readiness. They also present the Readiness to Scale Matrix, an analytical tool that enables users to evaluate whether an organization has reached a point where it not only has achieved an ability to scale its impact but also has earned the right to do so.
Now Stanford Social Innovation Review has published an article by Meehan and Jonker that encapsulates the core logic of the Readiness to Scale Matrix. Titled “Earning the Right to Scale,” the piece offers a brief overview of the seven essential elements of strategic leadership and then describes how an organization’s performance in those elements determines its placement on the matrix.
Although nonprofits remain unequal in their readiness to scale, all of them have a right—and, arguably, a duty—to optimize their performance in the context of how they are performing currently. To help nonprofit leaders gauge how ready their organization is to expand its impact, Meehan and Jonker created the Engine of Impact Diagnostic. This resource is, in effect, an interactive version of the Readiness to Scale Matrix, and it complements the SSIR article.
To read that article, click here.
The idea that mission matters—and that a mission statement should be more than a bit of marketing fluff—is a foundational concept in Engine of Impact. In a newly published interview, Bill Meehan emphasizes that point:
Many observers over the years have simply concluded that since so many nonprofits’ mission statements are vague or broad or nonspecific, filled with flowery inspirational language that doesn’t explain what the nonprofit does, they basically give the whole sector a pass and say that mission is not all that important. We don’t believe that. Nonprofits by definition are mission-focused and must start with a clear and focused mission.
Meehan and his co-author, Kim Jonker, spoke with host Dan Loney for the Knowledge@Wharton radio show, which streams on SiriusXM Channel 111. During the interview, Meehan and Jonker discussed the challenges associated with measuring impact, the power of donors to change the social sector, and role played by “insight and courage” in nonprofit leadership, among other topics. And although much of Engine of Impact focuses on ways that nonprofit organizations suffer from notable shortcomings, Jonker evoked the inspirational side of her and Meehan’s work: “It’s a very uplifting journey to write a book about extraordinary nonprofits because there are people devoting their every day and their entire lives to creating impact through the nonprofit sector.”
Many nonprofit organizations today, whether they know it or not, are losing their way because they lack a sound strategy. For any nonprofit, a strategy is nothing more—and nothing less—than a clear and rigorously planned set of actions that are designed to achieve a social mission. Strategic thinking in the social sector must draw on concepts from the business sector, but it must also adapt those concepts. By honing their strategy in this way, nonprofit leaders can enable their organization to increase its impact significantly.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 2 p.m. EST to 3 p.m. EST, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker will present an SSIR Live! webinar that explores key ideas and tools that will enable nonprofit leaders to pursue their work more strategically. The price to register for the webinar is $59.
For more information, or to register for the webinar, click here.
Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker are scheduling events related to Engine of Impact in several US cities. We will update the information below as event details become available.
The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia University hosts a book talk with Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker. The event is free. For more information, and to register for the event, click here.
Politics and Prose Bookstore presents Bill Meehan. The event is free; no reservation is required. For more information, click here.
The Social Enterprise Conference, co-hosted by Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School, includes an interview with Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker. In addition, Jonker will appear at a panel session. For more information, and to purchase tickets for the conference, click here.
The Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the Institute for Nonprofit Practice (INP) host a free public event with Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker. Yolanda Coentro, president and CEO of INP, will lead a discussion with the authors. For more information, and to register for the event, click here.
The 4th Annual HBS-GSB Board Summit, titled “Building High-Impact Non-Profit Boards” and jointly hosted by Harvard Business School Community Partners and Stanford Graduate School of Business, features a keynote presentation that includes a fireside chat with Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker. For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.
The 92nd Street Y hosts Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker for a presentation, followed by a Q&A session. Details about the event will be available at the 92nd Street Y website.
Since its official release in November 2017, Engine of Impact has garnered attention from a broad array of media outlets. Posts on the News page of this site have highlighted numerous articles, reviews, and interviews that explore the book, its authors, and the authors’ ideas about the present state and future potential of the nonprofit sector. In addition, the book has been featured in several other print and online outlets. Here’s a roundup of such coverage.
This year has yielded a bumper crop of books on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. So it’s notable that Matthew Bishop, a highly regarded author in his own right and a soon-to-be managing director at the Rockefeller Foundation, found room for Engine of Impact on his year-end book roundup. Bishop, co-author (with Michael Green) of Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World, features a wide range of titles related to social sector innovation on his “Philanthrocapitalism Books of the Year” list. He notes that Engine of Impact provides “a blue-print for thoughtful and effective leadership in the sector” and highlights the value that Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker deliver in identifying “the key factors that have enabled the greatest non-profits to succeed.”
You can read Bishop’s book list here.
“It’s one of those foundational books that only comes along every so often. It might even make a nice gift for someone.” So says Denver Frederick, host of the “Business of Giving” podcast, in concluding remarks to his recent interview with Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker about their book, Engine of Impact. In his opening remarks, Frederick observes that works that offer “isolated pieces of advice and wisdom” are plentiful. “What is often lacking, …” he argues, “is a serious, well-researched, and thoughtful source on how to make a real and lasting change.” In a wide-ranging conversation with Meehan and Jonker, Frederick explores their effort in Engine of Impact to fill that gap.
The podcast covers the challenge of focusing on organizational mission, the vicissitudes of nonprofit board governance, and what it takes for an organization to “earn the right” to scale. Frederick and his guest also venture into some controversial territory. Meehan, for instance, offers this provocative comment: “[O]ne of my favorite dinner party questions is to ask people what the biggest source of poverty alleviation is in the history of mankind, and nobody hardly ever gets it right. It’s capitalism in China. Number two is capitalism in India. It’s not aid to Africa.”
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