Study by The Bridgespan Group Uncovers Five Mindsets Fueling Growth of 20 of India's Fast-Scaling Nonprofits

02/16/2017 | 2 min |


Report published in SSIR's Impact India looks at mindsets of starting with scale in mind, personal dignity, radical frugality, innovative hiring and partnering with government
MUMBAI, February 16, 2017–The Bridgespan Group today published a study with Stanford Social Innovation Review ( that analyzes twenty Indian nonprofits rapidly scaling their reach amid resource scarcity, and offering lessons relevant to nonprofits the world over. The article, Why Indian Nonprofits Are Experts at Scaling Up, appears in a special collection titled Impact India, and is available online today.

“India is an ideal country for studying the challenges that growing nonprofits must overcome,” said Soumitra Pandey, a partner in Bridgespan’s Mumbai office and co-author of the piece. “As India’s nonprofits strive to help meet the needs of more than 250 million people who live on less than $2 daily, many push themselves to find the most effective ways of scaling their organizations with extremely limited resources.”

Noted Swati Ganeti, a Bain & Company consultant and Bridgespan extern: "India’s relatively low spending on health and education, coupled with the country’s physical, linguistic and cultural diversity has given rise to a plethora of challenges and solutions associated with reaching disadvantaged populations."

Bridgespan studied 20 Indian nonprofit organizations that have deftly managed the tension between scale and scarcity. In researching this issue, Bridgespan identified five recurring mind-sets that India’s nonprofit leaders use to maximize their outreach, and assist millions of people in need:
  • The Denominator Mind-Set: When thinking about a nonprofit’s impact as a fraction, the denominator represents the total size of the need, and the numerator the quantity of the need that the nonprofit is currently meeting. Many of India’s nonprofits use denominator thinking to stay focused on addressing the total size of the need, rather than on perfecting a solution that serves relatively few. 
  • The Dignity Mind-Set: Elevating the humanity of each participant is critical when confronted with addressing the needs of millions. Many of India’s nonprofits focus on preserving an individual’s dignity, in an effort to avoid reducing and compartmentalizing the human experience into numbers on a spreadsheet.
  • The Radical Frugality Mind-Set: When scarcity abounds, most Indian nonprofits not only focus on reducing costs, but find ways of using frugality to scale up. They optimize operational expenses and rein in capital expenditures, while at the same time ensuring that no cuts are made in areas that might starve innovation.
  • The Innovative Hiring Mind-Set: One of the biggest impediments to a nonprofit’s growth in India is the scarcity of people who have the right skills to fill certain types of jobs. Some nonprofits have responded by searching for people in overlooked but promising corners of the talent pool.
  • The Collaborative Mind-Set: While would-be innovators in Western countries tend to focus more on “disrupting the system” or “thinking outside the box,” many of India’s larger nonprofits have sought to innovate within the system, and make government a vital ally.
Rohit Menezes, a partner at Bridgespan and co-author of the article commented on areas where India can learn from the rest of the world: “Even as India can offer global lessons in how a nonprofit can extend its reach, Indian nonprofits can look to nonprofits elsewhere to better define and measure what success looks like. We would all benefit if nonprofits in both India and around the world developed systems and processes to more effectively measure their total impact.”

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group ( is a global organization that collaborates with mission-driven leaders, organizations, and philanthropists to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need. We bring a rigorous approach, shared passion, and deep social sector experience. Our services include consulting to nonprofits and philanthropists, leadership development support, and developing and sharing insights.

About Impact India
Impact India is a magazine collaboration between Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Bridgespan Group and Dasra, which publishes on philanthropic trends, management methods and social sector fields related to India’s rise as a laboratory of social innovation.

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