Doubling Down on Talent

by Josh Jacobson

As noted in our recent blog post, Next Stage is making a commitment to strengthening nonprofits throughout the Charlotte region with a renewed focus on implementation – marrying game-changing strategy with strengthened structure, talent and culture to help that strategy take flight.

Today I am proud to announce the addition of a new member to the Next Stage team – Tanya Varanelli – who will serve as Project Manager with a sharp focus on Next Stage’s talent recruitment and search operations.

Tanya’s background in search is strong, having spent many years working for Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm serving nonprofits, where she most recently served as Director of Research and Special Projects. Prior to joining Koya, Tanya was Associate Director of Recruitment at The Broad Center, where she helped recruit and train executive leadership talent to become urban school district leaders.  Tanya’s previous recruiting experience includes positions with DIRECTV, and Bain & Company.

We believe recruiting the right talent is critical for our area nonprofits. We have been proud of the many executive director and resource development searches we have completed over the past few years, with individuals like Patricia Massey Hoke (Women’s Impact Fund), Banu Valladares (Charlotte Bilingual Preschool), Kris Cole (Carolina Raptor Center), Laura Caldwell (Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas), David Samson (Sustain Charlotte), Lara Ingram (Mooresville Soup Kitchen) and Jenny Prince (Lupus Foundation of America, Charlotte Chapter) serving as a testament to staying power when the right talent meets an organization where the alignment is ideal.

Today, we are proud to make a firmwide commitment to making search a significant part of our firm moving forward. Tanya is working to strengthen our recruitment database of more than 3,000 individuals and will be leading search operations for our firm moving forward. I hope you will join me in welcoming Tanya to the Next Stage team.

If your organization is considering adding talent to your team, I hope you will consider contacting us. We specialize in Executive and Resource Development search, succession planning and the design of incentivization and key performance indicators that help transform strategy into action. After reading more about our work, you can contact me directly to schedule a free consultation.


Photo Credit: Julia Fay Photography

On The Move at Next Stage

By Josh Jacobson

It was really just a kernel of an idea – what if we could develop a program for the founders of emerging nonprofit organizations that would impart all the important stuff they need to be successful. I’d wrestled with it for a number of months before shelving it. Too ambitious. Too much time needed. Because at the time, ‘we’ was just ‘me.’

The course of our firm changed forever when Caylin Haldeman joined it in January 2017. She was my first hire at Next Stage, which had operated for years as a one-person shop. To say I got it right would be an understatement.

As anyone who has worked with Next Stage over the last three years knows, Caylin is our firm’s secret sauce. Through more than 30 client engagements, including several she has led herself, Caylin has been a major contributor to our team. Her process-oriented approach to tackling big challenges is an ideal complement to my own, giving shape to nascent ideas and drilling down to needed prioritization – “how will we get this done?”

It wasn’t too long after joining Next Stage that she asked a pointed question – “Is there a more efficient and effective way to do this work?” And with that, the seed of CULTIVATE that I’d covered up months before was given new light.

Together, we developed a year-long program built on the depth of our shared experience with nonprofits throughout the Carolinas, as well as my background in fundraising and Caylin’s work in venture philanthropy. We piloted CULTIVATE in 2018 with an inaugural cohort of three organizations, and grew the incubator in 2019 to serve six nonprofit leaders. Now, midway through the second year of CULTIVATE, we are deepening our commitment to this work.

It is with a tremendous swell of pride that I announce that Caylin Haldeman has been promoted to the role of Director of CULTIVATE. In her new role, Caylin will make the management of CULTIVATE her full-time job, ensuring fidelity in all aspects of the program. That includes driving the application process, strengthening the selection process and leading our storytelling efforts. We will continue to partner on the development and facilitation of our signature workshops and I will share the coaching role with her as she stewards participants through our 12-module curriculum. She will also be identifying new ways to leverage the tremendous digital resources we’ve developed.

It’s a big job and I know it is in the very best, most capable hands.

This is the first of several announcements we’ll be making over the coming weeks about changes at Next Stage, but it is the one of which I am most proud. I could not ask for a better partner in helping our firm grow impact and strengthen the Charlotte region’s nonprofit sector from the inside out.

For more on CULTIVATE, including the opening of the application for the third cohort this fall, visit the CULTIVATE website, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and give us a shout on social media – FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 cohort:



Reflections on the Summer Fellowship with Next Stage

by Ellie Pennybacker

As my summer comes to an end, I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough. Josh, Caylin, and the entirety of the Next Stage team have made this experience so enriching. By letting me jump right in, sit in on meetings, and help where I could, they truly made me feel like a part of the team. Though the summer was brief, it was constantly moving with new and exciting projects and opportunities. My fellowship with Next Stage has exceeded my expectations and left me with a growing interest in the nonprofit sector.

While I was in high school, I was deeply invested in my hometown through volunteer commitments, school programming, and the sheer amount of time I spent exploring the city. The joy of moving to Davidson for school allowed me to fulfill my teenage dream of leaving Macon, but after spending some time abroad and exploring more cities through both travel and research, I realized I had an unwavering affinity for my home town. After this summer, however, I have begun to feel that same connection with Charlotte. It might be because of the fantastic food, adventure, and exploring Charlotte social media accounts that I follow, or possibly I have just been spoiled to see the best of Charlotte through our nonprofit leaders. Regardless, the Queen City has given my hometown a run for its money.

The diverse array of responsibilities and opportunities given to me this summer encouraged me to truly invest my attention in the Charlotte community. Through engaging with nonprofit work from a different angle, I feel as though I got to know a generous, provocative, and growing side of Charlotte. These engagements have been truly impactful as I have been challenged to consider what issues facing these nonprofits are specific to the Charlotte community and which are universal in the larger nonprofit sector.

The past eight weeks have brought realizations, thoughts and questions to mind. To name a few:

  • The notion that nonprofits can and should model themselves like businesses was a foreign concept to me before this summer. While I had invested time through volunteering with nonprofits before, I had never invested intellectual energy into considering how nonprofits could move beyond filling a need and become sustainable parts of a community. Reimagining nonprofits within a working business model was transformational in how I understand the processes and difficulties of this work.
  • The multitude of ways to diversify revenue streams for nonprofits was shocking to me. After being able to be a part of two CULTIVATE workshops and working alongside each impressive participating organization, I was overwhelmed by the numerous ideas discussed to diversify revenue. The shock and worry of knowing there are over 4,000 nonprofits in Charlotte quickly melted away as I witnessed the expansive ideation coming from conversations with these organizations.
  • Corporate involvement in the nonprofit sector is much more prominent than I once thought. The interconnectedness of the for-profit and nonprofit sectors beyond monetary and good donations and into the inclusion of sponsorship or company-made foundation grants was previously unimaginable. While I still have a lot to learn about these relationships, and I’m regrettably missing the next CULTIVATE module on sponsorship, I remain interested in the relationships these interactions create across sectors.
  • The specific and universal difficulties of nonprofit work has been a recurring question in my mind. In honesty, I think only experience will answer my question. Yet, I like to think that this summer took me leaps forward in beginning to understand the answer. I have greatly enjoyed learning not only how nonprofits can interact, grow, and replicate but specifically how they can do so within Charlotte.

It has been eight fantastic weeks but, alas, I am still only 20 and have much more to do before I discover who I want to be when I grow up. What I do know, is that I am extremely grateful for the experiences I had this summer and will continue to reflect on how Next Stage has shaped my vision of nonprofit work in Charlotte and beyond.

Photo Credits: Eduardo Mayo and Julia Fay Photography

Welcome Patricia Massey-Hoke, Women’s Impact Fund’s New Executive Director

Congratulations to Patricia Massey-Hoke on her first day with Women’s Impact Fund!

Next Stage was honored to manage the search for WIF’s first Executive Director and is thrilled that Patricia will be taking the helm of one of our nation’s largest women’s collective giving organizations.

We so enjoyed working with board members of Women’s Impact Fund who served on the search task force. And according to WIF’s new Board Chair Lisa Miller, the feeling was mutual.

“We are delighted to have partnered with Next Stage for our executive search,” Miller said. “Josh and his team were professional, responsive, and highly adept at identifying our needs and a strong candidate pool.”

Talent acquisition is a core component of Next Stage’s organizational strengthening services, helping nonprofits source exceptional leadership talent to help them take their organization’s forward. Next Stage built on interim executive services provided by LevRidge Resources, which worked to prepare WIF for its first-ever Executive Director.

“Next Stage’s expertise was evident throughout the process — from recruitment to onboarding,” Miller said.

If your organization is considering an important executive hire for its next phase of growth, consider contacting us to learn more about how we can help make your search a success. Next Stage is strongly positioned to help with executive and development search, succession planning, and on-boarding and incentivization design.

#NonprofitBookClub: New Power

By Caylin Haldeman

When I started #NonprofitBookClub earlier this year, I hoped to use this platform as an opportunity to drive conversations and engage with others who are reading about nonprofits, community and social justice. In my last post, reviewing Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas, I asked readers for book recommendations for my next post and boy, did I get some great ones.

The first recommendation we’re diving into for #NonprofitBookClub is New Power: How Anyone Can Persuade, Mobilize and Succeed in our Chaotic, Connected Age.

Written by Jeremy Heimans, founder of Purpose, and Henry Timms, Executive Director of 92nd Street Y, New Power is a compelling argument for individuals and organizations to embrace new values and models focused on collaboration, transparency and broad-based participation. Heimans and Timms have strong backgrounds in building new power movements – the former founded multiple organizations focused on public mobilization and storytelling, and Timms is the original founder of #GivingTuesday, a global campaign to encourage philanthropic acts.

Old power, according to the authors, is characterized by concentrations of ownership and control. Fortune 500 companies, top-down politics and currency are all cited as examples of old power – traditional approaches to how individuals and organizations accumulate and exercise their influence. New power is more like currents of water or electricity – open, crowd-sourced, and gaining strength through numbers. Increasingly, people and companies are responding to far-reaching cultural shifts in attitudes toward activism and social good by utilizing models of new power to grow their influence and achieve their goals. From a branding perspective, new power has become critical for fostering trust and buy-in from a more socially conscious consumer base.

Through CULTIVATE, Next Stage aims to help emerging leaders get ahead of subtle cultural shifts like the ones outlined above and build nonprofits that are positioned to succeed in a world in which technology and social media drive connection and engagement at scales far beyond traditional human networks. Modules focused on partnership and collaboration, volunteer engagement and online communication provide tools and resources that help cohort organizations create strategies to engage with the broader community and “build the army”.

Yet we continue to advocate – like Heimans and Timms do – for a combination of new and old power approaches (or, as they say, blended power). The combination of innovative or gamified platforms that encourage community-building, co-creation and authentic engagement with more centralized models of traditional support like a well-positioned board of directors are a recipe for nonprofit success.

It is no surprise that this recommendation came from our friends at Share Good – the umbrella organization behind Share Charlotte and its marketing campaigns like #GivingTuesdayCLT and #SummerShareCLT that benefit so many local nonprofits in our community every year. Their online community engagement platform is a great example of how local nonprofits are capitalizing on new power to grow their networks and acquire new volunteers and donors.

If you’ve followed the growth of movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and Occupy – or watched with fascination as politicians like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump or companies like Airbnb, Uber and Facebook have exploded in popularity (and, often simultaneously, scandal) – New Power is an eye-opening window into the strategies, values and approaches that have made them so effective in their efforts to scale.

The book has left me wondering – if new power is about harnessing the broad collective, how do the smallest, most deeply embedded nonprofits in our community access it? Does the ability to utilize approaches and values characterized by new power inherently require access to the existing social networks that were created by the structures of old power systems?

Next up, I will read Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization and the Decline of Civic Life, in which Eric Klinenburg argues that the future of democratic societies rests on our shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed. I heard a great 99% Invisible podcast episode with Klinenburg, and am excited to read more.

Join in on Twitter and Facebook at @NextStageCLT!

What Use is Strategy Without Implementation?

By Josh Jacobson

The title of this post is both rhetorical and practical – what good are solutions if we don’t have the capacity to see them through?

For a firm focused on transformative strategy and thought leadership, it is a quandary and constant consideration. We are proud of our work that has yielded new ways of doing things in the nonprofit sector, but we worry for the capacity of our nonprofit partners to fully embrace new pathways forward. We love exploring how new strategies will define a pathway forward. But without operational excellence, what is the use?

Nonprofits are uniquely challenged due to the lack of available capacity-building capital. Too few donors or funders focus on helping nonprofits grow operationally. Sure, we all love a new program that serves a new population in a different part of town. But who wants to support the boring work of project management, governance transformation, professional development and process improvement?

Well, we do. In fact, we get pretty excited about it.

There are lots of analogies we could use. The ideal game-day playbook without a first-round quarterback. Quality recipes without a kitchen in which to make them. A fancy new technology without a user’s guide.

In short, strategy isn’t going to get you there alone. It takes the right organizational framework to implement new ways of doing things to achieve real success. If the effort fails, was it due to bad strategy or the lack of infrastructure surrounding it?

At Next Stage, we realize that working on one side of the equation is not going to get us there as a community. While we have always embraced the importance of a sound operational model, and it has been a core component of our services since the firm was established, we feel there is more we can do.

In July, Next Stage will be unveiling our new approach to organizational strengthening with a sharp focus on structure, culture and talent. We feel these are the building blocks of quality nonprofit operations, and necessary ingredients to embrace the new approaches that our strategy work brings forward.

We must strive for a stronger nonprofit sector, built to adapt and meet our community’s challenges head on. We look forward to sharing our new framework with you soon. Stay tuned!

Meet Ellie Pennybacker, Next Stage’s 2019 Summer Intern

I have nine-weeks to get to know all 4,000+ nonprofits in the greater Charlotte area! Not really, but I hope to at least get to know a few during my internship with Next Stage.

My name is Ellie Pennybacker and I am a rising junior at Davidson College studying Anthropology and Educational Studies. During my time with Next Stage this summer, I hope to explore my academic and social interest in the intersection of community work and education by witnessing the intricacies of nonprofit work first-hand. My goal for my time in this nine-week program is to match my academic training with observational learning and challenge my preconceptions of how the nonprofit community functions in Charlotte. Under the leadership of Josh and Caylin, I hope this summer will provide the opportunity to do just that and much more!

A little bit more about me:

I was raised in Macon, GA, where I played soccer since the age of four, practiced cello for seven years, and completed my Fine Arts certificate and IB diploma at Central High School. On a college tour dedicated to Duke University, I fell in love with Davidson and decided it was the place for me. I am a declared Anthropology major and Educational Studies minor intending to morph my pathway into the Interdisciplinary Studies department to create my own major that will focus on community work alongside post-K through 12 education.

At Davidson, I am involved in student groups supporting Charlotte Refugee Support Services, Huntersville Habitat for Humanity, and local Special Olympics programs. I am a member of women’s club soccer and served as sustainability chair for Rusk Eating House. This past year, I worked with Gig-Hub, a program matching regional start-ups with Davidson student skill pools, to complete a social-media training project for Tech Talent South. It was a busy, yet enriching, year!

I have particular interest in alternative education pathways and the ways in which they are embedded throughout our communities and particularly in nonprofit work. This past year, another student and I petitioned to have American Sign Language (ASL) introduced as a class on Davidson’s campus and were successful in establishing it as a Self-Instructional Language (SIL). This project encouraged me to broaden my understanding of how nonprofits can fill academic and social gaps in education. The breadth of non-profit work is still unimaginable for me. As I sit at the cusp of understanding the full capacity of the sector, I am thrilled to be joining the Next Stage team and watch as they navigate the complexities involved in this extensive field of work.

Some of my goals for this summer include:

  • Engaging with the Charlotte nonprofit community and getting to know a portion of the 4,000+ organizations working on social good in this area – I have most often seen nonprofits from a volunteer’s perspective (which is a skewed one, based on Josh’s Biscuit article!). Approaching this summer from a macro- instead of micro- perspective, I am interested to learn how the holistic nonprofit sector evolves to fit the needs of the community. I hope to gain a better understanding of how these organizations can adopt their models of work to fill the needs of the moment in an ever-changing social climate.
  • Exploring Charlotte more intimately so that I may graduate from Davidson with some knowledge of the city we claim to be so close to – A big selling point in my decision to go to Davidson was the supposed access to the greater Charlotte area; but between class work and I-77 traffic, I have found myself in Charlotte less than expected! Now that I am here for the summer, I hope to explore one of my academic interests: the role of religious organizations in community building. In my personal time, I hope to interact with various religious groups and understand how they view their community engagement within Charlotte. Particularly, I am interested in whether they identify with a particular community or feel connected to the entirety of Charlotte. Comparatively, I wonder how similar, or different, this is from the psyche of the local nonprofit sector.
  • Observing Next Stage’s work and learning as much as I can about program development, fundraising, and effective capacity building strategies for community organizations – As I have said, I have so much to learn about the nonprofit sector. In just the week that I have been here, I have been exposed to a plethora of opportunities and questions that I am excited to explore. I do not have a running list of questions about the sector, yet… but I do have a growing excitement for the opportunity to learn from Josh, the Next Stage team, and the Charlotte community.

This has been an exciting week of orientation and information overload for the summer projects to come, and I expect the next nine weeks will be filled with just as much eagerness, excitement, and enrichment!

#NonprofitBookClub: Winners Take All

Welcome back to the second iteration of Next Stage’s #NonprofitBookClub!

This month, we’re reading Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. I know – quite a bold title. But in the spirit of Josh’s column in the Biscuit, “Breaking Good,” Next Stage is sparking more bold conversations in 2019. What better way to do that than by reviewing a book that is about the challenges inherent in American philanthropy and the nonprofit funding model itself?

First of all, if you haven’t read this book yet (which was published in August 2018), it comes highly recommended. Winners Take All was suggested to me by a friend I know through Startingbloc, a social innovation fellowship that educates, inspires and connects emerging leaders to drive impact across sectors. Articles and videos featuring Giridharadas, a New York Times columnist, had been popping up across my social media platforms for years (if you haven’t seen it, his speech from the Aspen Institute’s Action Forum in 2015 is worth a watch), and I eventually got around to cracking open the book earlier this year.

The central question posed by Winners Take All focuses on the “new gilded age” of philanthropy, led by increasingly socially-minded business elites – do their market-friendly philanthropic efforts actually have impact on our nation’s entrenched social problems, or do they merely reinforce the status quo of growing wealth inequality and stratification?

It shouldn’t come as a shock to the reader, given the book’s title, that Giridharadas believes that market-driven philanthropy does not present real solutions to our most intractable challenges. In fact, he argues that “win-win” social change walks hand in hand with the perpetuation of a system that, by design, protects the same elites who position themselves as change-makers.

The book introduces us to a series of players in what he calls MarketWorld – including a former president, philanthropists, leaders from Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, social innovators and entrepreneurs – individuals and corporations that operate under the ethos of “doing well and doing good.” Through these stories, Giridharadas illustrates what he believes to be the incompatibility of their “extreme taking,” or the detrimental impacts of their day jobs, with their “extreme giving,” which he refers to as “virtuous side hustles.” What he’s saying is that the five-mile run they took this morning doesn’t negate the entire pizza they ate last night.

I see his point, but in my opinion, the more important argument presented in the book is about the growing centralization of this “change-making” within the private sector elite. Trendy market-driven solutions like impact investing and social entrepreneurism have shifted the onus of social and economic justice out of the hands of the public sector and government institutions, essentially handicapping our participatory democratic system. Nonprofits, Giridharadas argues in interviews about Winners Take All, must advocate for transformative change led by the public sector, advocating for systemic reform in place of charity, social enterprise and “doing good.”

These conversations could not come at a more critical time. According to a 2017 study by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, The Road to Zero Wealth, if the US racial wealth gap remains unaddressed, Black median household wealth will fall to zero by 2053, while white median household wealth is projected to rise to $137,000 by that same year.

Yes – you read that correctly. Zero. That takes a minute to sink in. In an era when we are perhaps more generous and charitable than ever before, disparities along racial and class lines continue to grow at an alarming pace. Something needs to change. But what?

My primary challenge with Winners Take All is that the book does a poor job of facilitating constructive discussion about solutions to these systemic fallacies. I did a bit of online research and found some emerging conversations about liberatory philanthropy and restorative investing – fresh strategies that reconcile philanthropy’s complicity in the systemic nature of wealth inequality. These justice-oriented approaches to the management and investment of endowments promote decision-making processes that restore equity. In other words, how do we get at the root of the problem instead of throwing our money at the symptoms?

Ultimately, liberatory philanthropy and restorative investing require a significant shift in the way we approach the role of capital and philanthropic institutions. According to Rodney Foxworth, founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, “the goal for foundations should no longer be to accumulate wealth… [but to] change their way of operating by redistributing wealth, democratizing power, and shifting economic control to communities.”

These localized approaches to social change – egalitarian, democratic collaborations and institutions that drive transformation from the ground up – are starting to show up in Charlotte in some really exciting ways. One example is the West Side Community Land Trust, Charlotte’s first land banking approach to permanently conserving our city’s affordable housing stock. Another is United Way of Central Carolinas’ United Neighborhoods Block Building Grants Program, which supports capacity-building for community-based organizations to lead comprehensive, resident-driven community planning in neighborhoods throughout Charlotte.

In Next Stage’s work with our nonprofit partners, we learn about new collective projects and justice-oriented “inside-out” efforts all the time. This gives me so much hope for our city.

Have you read Winners Take All? What did you think? Is there space in Charlotte for a deeper conversation about evolving the way we approach philanthropy and charitable involvement in our community into a groundswell of grassroots-led, authentic social change and reform?

Next month, I’m reading New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms. Shout out to Kelly Brooks from Share Good for the recommendation. Please feel free to read along and join the conversation in April.

As always, if you have any suggestions for the #NonprofitBookClub reading list, please let me know!

Additional Reading:

The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age by David Callahan
Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better 
by Rob Reich

Deepening, Expanding and Evolving: The Nonprofit Growth Mandate

by Josh Jacobson

On Tuesday, February 19, I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop for the Arts & Science Council on a provocative topic – “Deepening, Expanding and Evolving: The Nonprofit Growth Mandate.” So what was it about?

Organizations are apt to find themselves in a conundrum. Grantmakers tell them they want to primarily fund new initiatives and programming, with the goal of increasing mission impact. But they are unwilling to fund that growth entirely themselves, or else want to realign their giving to focus on growth instead of core operations and programming. We call the expectation of area funders “the nonprofit growth mandate,” with the idea that nonprofits are not able to stay in place for too long before they are encouraged to grow impact.

While this is typically a complaint directed at funders, it is also an expectation of plenty of boards, volunteers and other types of donors that “need drives response,” and with increased need comes the expectation of increasing programming to meet that need. In effect, nonprofits are meant to grow. As one participant said the other night, “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”

But what does that look like for different types of organizations? Not every organization is going to have a linear growth strategy that suggests increasingly higher budgets, larger staffs and increased impact through more programming. That may be appropriate for some, but for others, growth may look somewhat different.

This was the goal of the workshop – to explore growth through three lenses:

  • Deepening – Programmatic growth for an organization may not mean serving more people, but rather increasing impact for individuals already being served. The workshop explored methods of increasing impact by augmenting or extending the experience of engagement, elevating the understanding of program participants, challenging thought and action, and encouraging response. This is an ideal growth strategy for organizations that may be limited by space or human resources to continually increase the number of people served, and can be a cost-effective way to demonstrate increased impact through growth.
  • Expanding – We also covered the classic definition of growth, with an increased number of participants in programming as a goal. Methods we explored included increasing capacity to grow participants, planting a seed of engagement, aligning offerings to target audiences, and marketing to activate growth. For many workshop participants, it was clear barriers to expansion centered on facility, human resources and financial resources, which can be challenging issues to work through.
  • Evolving – This workshop also looked at a number of trends impacting nonprofits in the Charlotte area, with factors such as the overall growth of the nonprofit sector, the mix of how revenue is allocated and the impacts of generational change suggesting that current business models may not be sufficient in the future. The final topic of the workshop focused on evolving to shift delivery of mission and how evolution may be a different form of growth. We discussed redefining what success looks like, how new tools may be needed, and the importance of collaboration and sustainability.

In the end, workshop participants left feeling (I hope) Inspired by the possibilities but also grounded with tools and how-to supports to aid them as they engaged their boards and other key stakeholders in the topic of growth.

As a new topic for us, the “Nonprofit Growth Mandate” is a compelling frame for discussing the best practices all organizations should be engaged in – regular needs assessments and asset inventories to explore opportunities to deepen, expand and evolve mission delivery.

#NonprofitBookClub: Social Startup Success

By Caylin Haldeman

2019 is off to the races, everyone. How are you doing on your resolutions?

Me? Work in progress. I made the resolution to read more books on things I feel passionate about. I even created a reading list of books that will help me get smarter on topics like affordable housing, notions of “community” and “belonging” and (shocking) nonprofits.

But man, it can be hard to find the time! Josh and I talk all the time about how to stay on top of all of the great thinking coming out of the nonprofit sector – both locally and in other communities. We listen to podcasts (On Life and Meaning, BrandBuilders and the Charlotte Podcast have all featured great local nonprofits lately) and read online publications like SSIR, yet I have been watching as my “to read” stack of nonprofit literature grows taller and taller on my bookshelf.

In late January, hundreds of nonprofits gathered together at Project 658 for SHARE Charlotte’s 2019 Nonprofit Summit. It was a packed day, with two panels featuring local nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate leaders and a keynote address by Kathleen Kelly Janus, social entrepreneur and author of Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make A Difference. Which just so happens to be one of those books in my stack…

I took that as a sign from the universe – “Get to reading, Caylin.”

So, I did. Here’s what I learned, organized by four ideas Kathleen presented during her keynote:

Nonprofits Must Invest in Themselves – This, I would argue, is the crux of the book – and just so happens to be one of Next Stage’s organizing philosophies, too. Too often, organizations are subject to the nonprofit starvation cycle, in which nonprofits underspend and underreport on overhead expenses due to unrealistic funder expectations.

In her book, Kathleen presents five core strategies for nonprofit success: testing ideas, measuring impact, funding experimentation, leading collaboratively and telling compelling stories. Each of these strategies requires deep investment – of time, resources and brand.

Nonprofits Must Harness the Passion of the Next Generation – According to Kathleen’s research, 55% of millennials say that they choose companies to work for because of their commitment to social good. Other research shows that 75% of millennials would even take a pay cut to work for a more socially responsible company. As Next Stage’s resident millennial, I feel like I can vouch for this: the next generation really cares about engaging in social good.

But we are also discerning in how we engage with nonprofits, in a way that diverges from the generations that have preceded us. While donors have zeroed in on evidence and efficiency in recent decades, the next generation has demonstrated an appetite for risk-taking, ambitious vision and bold story-telling. Nonprofits have to shift data collection and analysis, fundraising and communication strategies to meet these changing priorities, testing new strategies to harness the support of next-gen volunteers and donors.

Nonprofits Must Cultivate More Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – This is an unfortunate truth in the nonprofit sector: philanthropy often presents an inherent bias toward a nonprofit’s pedigree of leadership over an authentic representation of the community it serves. And due to the unique nature of the nonprofit structure, the sector tends to organically organize itself around philanthropic demand.

This means that the most successful nonprofits are typically the ones most aligned with this bias – organizations headed by well-connected, well-resourced and credentialed leaders. But in recent years, there has been increasing emphasis on the importance of cultivating diversity, equity and inclusion in the nonprofit sector both from nonprofits themselves and from funders. While this topic was a huge theme of Kathleen’s keynote address, I was disappointed to see that it does not play a central role in her recommendations related to cultivating collective leadership in Social Startup Success.

Donors Must Invest in Nonprofits – Nonprofit leaders have long championed efforts to reframe the way donors understand “overhead” and instead highlight capacity building – not program funding – as the key to unlocking more sustainable nonprofit business models. Frequently, donors will pair an investment with specific, restrictive expectations about its usage and impact. Kathleen calls this “donor entitlement,” and if you’ve spent any time working for a nonprofit, I bet you’ve run into it.

While the tides of donor attitude toward capacity building are slowly changing, many nonprofits develop alternative fundraising strategies to cover operating costs. As Josh explored in a recent article for his Breaking Good column in the Biscuit, Forget “Charity.” Think Like a Business, earned income is an underutilized method of revenue generation for many nonprofits. Kathleen leans into this notion, dedicating two chapters within the theme of funding experimentation to an exploration of how to build successful earned income strategies.

In sum, Social Startup Success was full of well-researched strategies for organizational strengthening, and was a great kick-off for my new monthly series on the Next Stage blog: #NonprofitBookClub. What should I read next?

P.S. I have to give a shout out to our friends at SHARE Charlotte for all that they do to champion local nonprofits – their leadership has done so much to strengthen our community’s supportive infrastructure through the encouragement of philanthropic giving, volunteer engagement and other forms of charitable involvement. Facilitating conversations about topics like the ones presented in Social Startup Success will make all of our work more effective. If your nonprofit has not yet joined their online platform, I encourage you to check it out.