Best Ideas and Strategies to Disrupt the Nonprofit Sector

If nonprofits are going to solve the world's toughest social justice issues and create real world impact, then we need to disrupt the nonprofit sector and radically change the way it functions and is led. For the March Nonprofit blog carnival I asked the community to share their thoughts about how we can create more innovative and effective organizations, a topic that Amy Sample Ward and I discuss in our book Social Change Anytime Everywhere,

I asked people to think of ways nonprofits can be more self-sustainable, and how they can incorporate startup principles like failing fast. I received some brilliant responses. This is one Nonprofit Blog Carnival that will make you want to get up and make a difference.

The Validation Board: a “Lean Startup” Strategy Worth Testing

Natasha Golinsky asks how nonprofit organizations from any sector can achieve higher results while simultaneously investing less time, effort, and money with the Lean Startup philosophy? The organizations that are able to change the world will be those who become experts at listening to their target clients’ real needs and then develop customized, innovative solutions to solve them. How they arrive at these solutions will be through a process of thorough testing, attention to the real data from their target audience, and then pivoting accordingly.

Disrupting Nonprofit Governance: Embedding Fulfillment and Fun in Board Service

Debra Beck asks what it would take to truly disrupt what happens in the nonprofit boardroom – and transform the outcomes? This blog post draws inspiration from the American Bar Association's 2014 Bar Leadership Institute backchannel in asking: What if fun and fulfillment were the norms for the ways nonprofit boards work?

6 Women Who Are Disrupting the Startup World with Social Change

Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects highlights six women who have taken their entreprenurual and leadership skills and started social enterprises and nonprofits focused on tackling social issues.

Disrupting the Nonprofit Sector: Changing Mindsets & Perceptions

Imagine a world where for-profit companies see nonprofits as true business partners, not just those people who ask for money and want things for free. The idea of disrupting the nonprofit sector is more than shaking it up like a snow globe just to see how it might settle into a different pattern. Jessica Green says it’s about changing our internal mindset about how we do business, and changing the external perception that what we do isn’t really business.

How Much Is Disengagement Costing Your Organization?

Leslie Beckbridge focuses on the cost of burnt-out and disengaged employees from a fundraising and development perspective. The premise is that by reframing employee engagement as a fund development issue, organizations (and the sector) would benefit financially, while also benefitting from an engaged and happy workforce. Leslie is really speaking to nonprofit leadership and decision-makers to get them on board with valuing their employees.

Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Claire Axelrad writes about leading for transformation, not transaction, about a culture of philanthropy, not fundraising. This is about leading from vision, not mission. It's about moving forward, rather than adhering to the status quo in order to justify continued existence (and current jobs). She encourages you to lead from strengths, not weaknesses, and to embrace the changes the digital revolution has brought us. Don't lead your nonprofit backwards!

Stop Building Lists. Start Building Relationships

Nonprofits have limited resources, staff, and time—there should never be a day wasted building a list, or earning a “like” that doesn’t advance your mission. Hilary Doe says that if the online engagement you’re doing feels shallow, it probably is. So, what does building relationships in the nonprofit space really look like? A human conversation.

A Culture of Communication Nurtures a Culture of Innovation.

Brian Sooy says innovation is a way of thinking. Innovation is not about doing an old thing in a new way, it is about creating a new way to do something new, or a new way to do something better. Innovation does not accept the status quo; it recognizes there may be a better way, and is open to making it a reality. That sounds a bit like what your purpose and mission are: to create greater impact for the cause your organization represents. The problem is we’re uncomfortable with new. We’re uncomfortable with new processes, new approaches. We’re uncomfortable with that with which we are not familiar: social media, with communications planning, with taking the time to communicate clearly. We’re uncomfortable with measuring the results we achieve, for fear they do not measure up to the board’s (and our supporter’s) expectations.

Non-Profit Entrepreneurs Can Change the World

Joe Garecht believes that nonprofit entrepreneurs can change the world. This is an ask for nonprofit fundraisers and executive directors to embrace entrepreneurship in all they do at their nonprofit.

Disruption in the Nonprofit Sector

Leadership, board development and generative governance can move our field forward. Doing what we’ve always done has gotten us where we are, but it can’t take us forward. Dani Robbins asserts that we have to evolve in order to improve our field and continue to positively impact our communities, and to create more innovative organizations.

Rules are Made to Be Broken - 3 Innovative Tips to Maximize Board Fundraising

Kathie Kramer Ryan presents tips on addressing how to engage your board in fundraising and to look at alternatives to "best practices." Consider disbanding your development committee, lowering expectations (just a little!), and personalizing your approach to tap individual strengths in order to get better results.

Disrupt Your Hiring: Smart Interviewing Makes Great Hiring

Tony Martignetti speaks to Sherryl Nufer, a founding partner in Pareto Consulting, and she explains why Behavioral Interviewing is superior to traditional methods and how any size nonprofit can get better hires through more sophisticated interviewing, whether you hire once a year or many times a month.

A Unique Fundraising Idea for Your Nonprofit

Adam Weinger highlights some methods for telling your volunteers about grant programs, as well as some companies with outstanding or unique programs. Volunteers have already proven their dedication to your organization by giving you their time, so now it's time to move them up the ladder of engagement. You can ask them to submit for a volunteer grant from their employer! It couldn't be easier and costs the volunteer nothing. Most volunteers don't even know they're eligible.

Outreach to Turn your Nonprofit Upside Down

Mark Titi challenges you to elevate your nonprofit to the next plateau by embracing a spirit of Internal Outreach. It’s time to disengage and reconnect the dots. Stop moving in multiple directions with watered down impact. Start tapping the latent power that resides within your nonprofit.

5 Ways to Psych Out Stakeholders

The science of decision making offers a growing array of insights and tools with which NPOs can enhance relationships with stakeholders. Herd mentality, the endowment effect, the emotions conferred by “luck." Gary Belsky explains how research at the academic frontier can improve nonprofit organizations’ prospects.

Can Non-profits Learn From Innovative Companies?

Lori Halley discusses the on-going debate about whether nonprofits should think and be managed more like for-profit companies.

Precious Snowflake Syndrome

The incredible and ongoing growth in the number of nonprofits, compared to stagnant level of giving raises the question: What is the true purpose of your organization? This post, by Tara Cunningham, takes a look at the hallmarks of a fictitious disease that infects organizations in existence for (dare I say!) the wrong reasons--it offers a cure, too!

Mobile is More – Use it to Disrupt the Nonprofit Sector

Elizabeth Same at mGive recommends using an integrated mobile strategy to shake up the nonprofit sector and create personal relationships with your donors and supporters. They chatted with their team, the strategists who work with nonprofits and mobile every day, to get the inside scoop on why mobile disrupts the sector.

My Top 3 Ways to Disrupt the Philanthropy Space

Great leaders like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and John Kennedy have urged all humans to seek to serve others and to not be served ourselves. Dale Knoop envisioned three ways to disrupt philanthropy, and if they were to become reality, she sees a dramatic improvement in our service to those less fortunate than you or me.


Be sure to read the call for submissions for April's carnvival by Nancy Schwartz about the work behind your work—the methods and tools you use to stay focused, productive and happy on the job (or the barrier that keeps you from getting there)

The Nonprofit Blog Carnival happens each month. Sign up for reminders at To learn more, check out What Is the Nonprofit Blog Carnival? and Nonprofit Blog Carnival Archives.

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