August 20, 2012

What Did I Learn from Our Nonprofit Due Diligence Series? Among Other Things—Leaders Matter

This is the latest post in our Nonprofit Due Diligence series. Alison Powell is Bridgespan’s Philanthropy Knowledge Manager. Special thank you to Matt Plummer, an Associate Consultant at The Bridgespan Group, for his work on this blog series.

By: Alison Powell

Donors are heavily dependent on the nonprofits they fund to get the results they seek. For this reason, your success in finding the right “match” is clearly a critical part of getting results with your philanthropy.

This is why we’ve approached our recommendations on how to go about such research, or “due diligence,” with care. While it is important that funders get the transparent information they require to make the right grantmaking decisions, it’s also critical that nonprofits feel respected and equally valued in the process.

Last week, we wrapped up an almost four-month blog series where we shared tips and thoughts for how donors might approach researching nonprofits they seek to fund. We divided the guidance into four areas, focusing on nonprofit strategy and results, leadership, financials, and organization and operations.

The reaction that we received on the blog series was encouraging. We had a number of people sharing our content addressing both funders and nonprofits—including, among many others, the Association of Small Foundations (@ASFphilanthropy), Root Cause (@RootCause), Lori Larson (@LoriLarson_KC) of Guidestar (@guidestarusa), and David Colby (@davidccolby) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (@RWJF).

In addition, it was exciting to partner on this effort with organizations that are doing great work to support donors and foundation leaders in their nonprofit due diligence, such as Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (@GEOfunders) and LearnPhilanthropy (@learnphil). GEO’s Kathleen Enright’s guest blog “Nonprofit Due Diligence Done Well” shared strong points about the four questions GEO believes should guide donors’ research, and LearnPhilanthropy generously hosted a guest blog on their website to spread the word about the campaign.

I found it interesting that while each of the four focus areas—strategy and results, leadership, financials, and organization and operations—received attention, the leadership entries garnered almost 50 percent of the re-tweets. It’s clear that while all aspects of due diligence are important to readers, there seemed to be a particular resonance for tips that highlight nonprofit leaders and their boards.

Thanks to all those who retweeted the content and joined in the conversation—we are so grateful for your support and interest. If you had reactions or comments on the series, we would love to hear them.

Check back next week for the first post in our new “Finding Your Philanthropy Compass” series. We’ll be sharing guidelines for more strategic giving.


This is the latest post in our Nonprofit Due Diligence series. Click on the links below to read previous posts. Join the conversation by commenting below or on Twitter at #NonprofitDueDiligence. You can follow Give Smart updates at @BridgespanGroup.

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