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.”
Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker continue to develop new content and new resources that explain and amplify the ideas that they set forth in Engine of Impact. The best way to stay up-to-date on this material is to register for the Engine of Impact newsletter. Each edition of the newsletter features news and insights that will help you improve your leadership practice—and the practice of strategic leadership at your organization.
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In addition, you can access previous editions of the Engine of Impact newsletter at the links below.
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.”
Nonprofit organizations often recruit people who have been successful in the business sector to serve on their board of directors. It’s a practice that can work well, enabling a nonprofit to gain valuable perspective from smart professionals—but only if those professionals are equipped to engage actively and meaningfully both in board meetings and in the work of the organization. That’s a big “if,” and it raises lots of questions for board members whose experience lies mainly outside the nonprofit sector.
In fact, mastering the challenge of nonprofit board service starts with raising questions. In a new feature article for McKinsey Quarterly, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker present a brief guide to doing precisely that. They write:
If you know how to probe, nudge, and prod, you can help your board perform better. Doing so starts with courage. In our experience, nonprofit board members are often reluctant to contribute actively to discussions for fear that they will appear uninformed or cause an embarrassing ruckus. To be effective, you must overcome that fear. And then you must ask questions. Ask all your questions, even ones you fear might seem stupid, and keep asking them until you figure out what the smart questions are.
The article (“The Four Questions to Ask When Serving on a Nonprofit Board”) appears in the December 2017 issue of McKinsey Quarterly. You can read it here.
Seeing is believing: We can now share video recordings of two events held at Stanford University to mark the launch of Engine of Impact.
On Oct. 28, Bill Meehan and Kim Jonker appeared at a session during Alumni Weekend at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). Jonathan Levin, dean of GSB, Spoke with Meehan and Jonker about a wide range of book-related topics, and afterward GSB alumni posted questions to the authors.
On Nov. 9, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society hosted an event in honor of Engine of Impact at the David and Joan Traitel Building, site of the new conference center of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. John Hennessy, former president of the university, interviewed Meehan and Jonker, and a lively audience Q&A session followed.
“Americans today are looking for some ‘common ground,’ …” Bill Meehan told Brook Manville in a recently published interview. “Our associative initiatives are a formal sector now. [That sector is] perfectly positioned to give us all a chance to do something meaningful without politics. It’s a perfect antidote for today’s dysfunction—because when people join in shared purpose, they see they have more in common than they first thought.”
Manville, a consultant and executive coach, spoke with Meehan in his role as a regular contributor to Forbes.com. The interview ranges widely but also delves deeply into “what it takes” for social sector leaders both to achieve real impact in the world and to achieve personal meaning in their work. Meehan doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges that come with making this career choice: “Nonprofit leaders have to get good at keeping things going, while sacrificing for years,” he says. “Because success can be so elusive to define, the hill can be even steeper.” But he highlights the rewards as well: “[P]ersonal meaning drives our spirit. So why not help make a better world?”
You can read Manville’s piece here.
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