Geri Stengel

 
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How Can Nonprofits Get the Money and Skill to Scale?

Change is needed in the way we address social and environmental needs. Resources, most especially money, are tighter while the need is increasing, according to a recent survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

scaling nonprofits, funding nonprofits, Social Impact Exchange, growing nonprofitsScaling proven solutions to failing public schools, entrenched poverty, and the lack of accessible, affordable high-quality healthcare allows us to do more (in a highly effective manner) for less.

We need two things to make good things grow: sustainable sources of capital and a willingness to adopt technological solutions.

The capital to scale proven solutions is not yet consistently available to fund evidence-based, high-performing nonprofits. One organization is dedicated to changing that. For the third year, the Social Impact Exchange (SIEx) is holding a conference to bring together capital providers so they can co-fund major expansions of proven initiatives. SIEx is taking a page out of the for-profit playbook in which there are systems in place to vet, select, and support the growth of promising companies.

Creating a capital marketplace that provides reliable funding to scale high-impact nonprofit initiatives not only requires funders; it also requires nonprofits with initiatives appropriate for funding. Each year, the Social Impact Exchange holds a business plan competition to identify early- and mezzanine-stage initiatives with demonstrated impact and readiness to scale.

I’ve been involved with the nonprofits in the competition since its inception. I’ve coached three nonprofits (Ashoka’s Youth Venture program, Reading in Motion and The Doe Fund) who competed in the SIEx business plan competition and I have written about their experiences. Yes, even if you don’t win, you benefit.

For nonprofits wondering if they are ready to scale, Ventureneer produced an ebook Scaling Impact: A Primer for Nonprofits to help you determine if your nonprofit’s initiatives are appropriate for scaling.

The ebook also touches on the promise of technology for scaling infrastructure, fundraising, and outreach. I’m a believer in technology; I think the innovations and lower costs provided by technology will allow us to meet the ever-growing need for social services.

The technology needed to scale a nonprofit may start with the backend -- client management or accounting -- and spread to innovation in services and outreach. Start slowly or jump in the technological deep-end but get going. Some articles to get you started:

It’s not as if we have time to waste.