February 15, 2017

Top Articles of 2016

Below are the top articles The Bridgespan Group published in 2016, highlighting the top five across a number of themes and publications. 

This past year The Bridgespan Group researched and explored dozens of themes, from nonprofit network effectiveness and talent management to “big bets” on social change and a grant-making approach that truly covers the costs of running a successful nonprofit. We’ve shared those insights across many outlets including Bridgespan.org, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Forbes, and more. Below we look back at our work from 2016, highlighting our top five articles across a number of themes and publications.

Top 5 Insights from Bridgespan’s Multiyear Initiatives

(The insights below come from Bridgespan’s multiyear initiatives: investments in ideas we believe to have the potential to influence the social sector.)

“Billion Dollar Bets” to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American
Social mobility in the United States has largely remained stagnant for nearly half a century, and many people doubt there's a better economic future for themselves and their children. It will take a sustained effort to restore economic opportunity for all Americans. Read more >>

Helping Nonprofit Networks Strengthen Their Fundraising Effectiveness
It’s common for large nonprofit networks to compare costs and revenues across sites. Yet, few have asked which sites are doing the best job of maximizing fundraising potential—what we call fundraising effectiveness. Share of wallet, an oft-used tool in the for-profit sector that measures the amount of customers’ total spending that a business captures, offers a novel approach to achieving fundraising effectiveness. Read more >>

Network Transformation: Can Big Nonprofits Achieve Big Results?
In an era of tech-enabled, high-growth social enterprises, it’s easy to overlook the large, slower-growth nonprofits with broad networks that have been serving communities for decades. Yet it’s these national and global networks that have the reach and power to take on big social issues and create impact at scale. Read more >>

The Next Chapter in Transformative Scale
Social innovators have long demonstrated how to build and replicate effective programs, yet even the most effective programs still struggle to create population-level change. This challenge inspired us to team up with Harvard Business School to launch the Transformative Impact Collaborative—a group of 26 nonprofits and funders that are building transformative scale strategies. Out of this collaboration have emerged a number of important themes and issues. Read more >>

Systems Change: More Than a Buzzword
While the definition of systems change is still elusive to Jeff Edmondson, his experience over the last decade working to improve educational outcomes for kids has revealed a few key insights on what it takes to achieve it. First, it takes a commitment by partners to define common outcomes for which they will hold themselves accountable. It also requires integrated data sets to help partners make sense of actions to be taken. And lastly, it takes an understanding that success is not determined by what is done in meetings, but what is done between them. Read more >>

Top 5 Articles on Leading a Nonprofit

A Board’s Number One Priority – Talent Development
The only thing more important than strategic clarity is having the talent to execute the strategy for lasting impact, says Bridgespan's Tom Tierney. Here he talks with Bridgespan alumna and founder of Viewcrest Advisors Kathleen Yazbak about the key qualities and priorities nonprofit boards should possess to help ensure the organizations they serve can fulfill their missions. Read more >>

New CEO, Dysfunctional Organization. Now What?
As a new CEO, confronting deeply rooted and unproductive habits and systems in an organization isn't for the faint of heart. It takes time, careful planning, and patience to work through the weeds of a dysfunctional organization. This story recounts one CEO's journey to transform his organization's culture and the lessons he learned along the way. Read more >>

Raising the Bar for Nonprofit Boards
Len Schlesinger, a professor at Harvard Business School, talks with former Bridgespan partner and founder of Viewcrest Advisors, Kathleen Yazbak, about the importance of talent management and how nonprofit boards can better serve their organizations. Read more >>

Using Social Media in Nonprofit Talent Acquisition
You don't need a big budget to put social media tools to good use in your nonprofit's recruiting efforts. Here are three ways you can leverage them to find the talent you need. Read more >>

When a Founder Moves On
Any leadership transition can be fraught with uncertainty and difficult decisions, but founder transitions can be particularly wrenching. Laurel Dukehart, former CEO of Gateway to College, shares how she helped her organization and board survive the transition and the lessons she learned along the way. Read more >>

Top 5 Bridgespan Articles on Stanford Social Innovation Review

Can Big Nonprofits Get Big Results?
How giant nonprofit networks are shifting their approach from serving communities to solving underlying problems. Read more >>

Hidden Talent: How Smart Companies Are Tapping Into Unemployed Youth
Refining the raw talent of the 5.5 million young Americans out of work and out of school provides compelling opportunities for companies, youth, and society—a rare trifecta—that a growing number of corporate leaders are betting on. Read more >>

Pay-What-It-Takes Philanthropy
A new grant-making approach is needed—one that provides enough money for nonprofits to pay for all their operations, not just programs and services. The first step toward achieving that is for grantmakers to realize that different types of nonprofits have different cost structures. Read more >>

Selling Social Change
All too often, nonprofits take a “build it and they will come” approach, focusing most of their efforts on creating services that they think are innovative or effective, and expressing surprise when those services go begging for participants. It’s time for nonprofits to develop a more sales-driven approach to social change. Read more >>

The Community Cure for Health Care
Large health care systems are beginning to invest core operating dollars in connecting their patients to community resources, in service of the ultimate solution to better costs and outcomes: keeping patients healthy. Read more >>

Top 5 Bridgespan Articles on Forbes

Big Bet Philanthropy: How More Givers Are Spending Big And Taking Risks To Solve Society's Problems
In 2015, The Bridgespan Group noted 58 philanthropic gifts of $25 million or more centered on solving large-scale social problems. But does investing in a moonshot provide a higher social return on investment than spreading the wealth across multiple projects? To answer this, The Bridgespan Group and Forbes looked at 30 of the biggest bets aimed at social change in 2015. Using a methodology based on ambition, clarity, and potential, and enlisting a group of outside advisors, we arrived at 10 of the most promising big bets to watch. Read more >>

Philanthropy Takes a Stand in Social Movements
Does philanthropy really have a useful role to play in transformative social movements? History says, “yes.” For a recent research project on big bets, (gifts of $10 million or more), The Bridgespan Group examined a number of recent, successful social movements, such as: in the United States, the rejuvenation of conservatism in the 1970s and 80s, and LGBT rights in the last decade; and, globally, the Green Revolution of the 1940s—60s. More than 70 percent of the social movements we studied received at least one pivotal big bet. Read more >>

Wall Street Philanthropy: The 6 Do's And Don'ts From The Trading Floor
Many leaders on Wall Street have succeeded through effective investing and savvy deal making. That success has given them means to become influential philanthropists. However, an important question for any investor-turned-philanthropist to ask is: Which lessons from Wall Street can make for more effective philanthropy, and which should be left on the trading room floor? Read more >>

A Billion Dollar Bet For Kids: Welcoming The Revolutionary Blue Meridian Partners
Blue Meridian will invest at least $1 billion in high-performing US nonprofits that can have truly national impact for economically disadvantaged children and youth, potentially taking three developing and very promising philanthropic trends to the next level. Read more >>

More Philanthropists Should Think Like Venture Capitalists
A venture capital fund may evaluate thousands of potential deals per year to find just 10 investments that have the potential for great returns. With more private-sector-style sourcing and due diligence, philanthropists could follow suit, using “effective altruism” to uncover those opportunities that could truly change the world. Read more >>

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