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The Making of a Standout Nonprofit

I have the good fortune to visit many nonprofits – global, national, and regional organizations of all sizes, in all fields, including education, the environment, health and human services, culture and arts, and economic development. I frequently fall in love with wonderful organizations and the powerful work that dedicated people do to serve our communities. 

I have the good fortune to visit many nonprofits – global, national, and regional organizations of all sizes, in all fields, including education, the environment, health and human services, culture and arts, and economic development. I frequently fall in love with wonderful organizations and the powerful work that dedicated people do to serve our communities. 

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Recently, I visited an extraordinary nonprofit – My Sisters’ Place in Westchester, New York, a multi-million dollar organization that addresses domestic violence through advocacy, outreach, emergency shelters, and education services.  Here’s what made My Sisters’ Place a standout: 

Evidence of excellence based on preliminary information: 

  • A review of MSP on Guidestar, a database with the financial information of 1.8 million IRS-recognized nonprofits, that shows that more than a quarter of their funding is philanthropic, and the rest from government.  For a social services organization, this percentage of philanthropy is a massive achievement. First of all, it means that the board and staff work hard and effectively at fundraising.  Secondly, it means that MSP can better ensure that mission-oriented programs are sustainable and of a high quality even through the normal ebbs and flows of government funding.

Further evidence of excellence based on meetings and conversations with Executive Director(ED) Karen Cheeks-Lomax, and several board members, staff, and volunteers:  

  • Passion and commitment for the mission, teamwork, focus, high energy, and high regard for the ED and her leadership
  • A deeply engaged board of directors – visionary, strategic, and financially supportive, continuously seeking to strengthen itself and build for the future
  • The ED’s determination to overcome obstacles to generate support to serve all victims of domestic violence – see example in this NYT article
  • The ED’s effectiveness in establishing relationships with public officials, donors, and board members, mentoring her staff, and also being present among clients, so that she understands their needs and interests on the ground level
  • The purposefulness of MSP’s strategy in creating a spectrum of integrated services to help women, families, and children advance their lives
  • Commitment to measurement and program evaluation
  • Role modeling and mentoring by successful graduates

 And evidence from last week’s graduation:

  • The testimony of the graduates of MSP’s Life Skills program – women from 6 countries on 4 continents
  • The participation in last week’s graduation by board members, funders, public officials, staff, and volunteers

The economic cost of domestic violence in the U.S. is 8 million work days a year.   With safe shelter, caring support, and innovative programs throughout Westchester County, the staff and clients of MSP create strategies that offer protection from abuse and suffering, as well as a path to a safe and peaceful future.  MSP changes lives and improves the community, today and for the next generation. 

It’s not simply a worthy mission.  It’s a matter of excellence in how they do it. 

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About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions. Korngold's latest book is "A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot," published by Palgrave Macmillan for release on 1/7/14

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