Are you a NPO leader? Then you know that running a NPO is no easy task and running it well, is close to being an art form. It takes vision, courage, wisdom, character and grit to stay the course through all the seasons and landscapes that NPO leaders need to navigate, NPOs may vastly differ in focus, but what is clear is that no matter how big or small your NPO is, you want your work to make a lasting difference in the communities that you serve. So, what are the essential elements that makes a NPO impactful? There are many factors that NPO leaders need to consider, but let’s highlight three:

The NPO’s vision and mission must be driven by a clear value system
NPO leaders often put great emphasis on what they are doing, but sometimes forget the “how.” A strong “what” and “why” are important, but not enough. Your value system must drive how the vision and mission are implemented. Some NPOs have a strong vision and mission, but forget that people far longer remember how things are done, then what is being done.

Let’s take your organisation’s service delivery and resources for example:

  • Does your organisation have a clearly defined value system, which is translated in measurable visible actions?

  • How do you ensure that service delivery keeps beneficiaries’ needs, perspectives and strengths central as well as remain relevant to context?

  • How are you stewarding the NPO’s resources so that it displays integrity, transparency and accountability?

  • How do you ensure that the organisation’s resources are used for the purpose and beneficiaries it was intended for?

The leadership values relationships with all role-players
The success of the NPO rests primarily on its trusting relationships with all role-players including board members, supporters, team members, collaborators, and beneficiaries. Remember that even if your NPO has a brilliant strategy with great resources, it will go nowhere without the support of people.

Making sure that people feel truly valued in every engagement is important, so here are some questions to ponder:

  • What is the one thing that will keep people motivated to support your organisation’s mission?

  • In comparison, what may cause people to disengage from your NPO?

  • How do people experience your service delivery when they engage with your NPO’s activities, communication and events?

  • In which ways do you honour your collaborators and strengthen their redemptive purpose?

  • Are you intentional and sincere in expressing gratitude for the contributions of all role-players who help your NPO to be successful; not only a selected few?

  • How do you manage and communicate different expectations, while staying true to your commitments and character?

  • How do you ensure that your board and team are well supported and remainmotivated?

The board is committed to implementing ethical governance
Impactful NPOs cannot thrive without engaged board members who are truly committed to ethical governance. This means that you need to recruit and retain board members who are a good fit for the organisation in terms of its values and principles. You can always upskill your board members through informative governance training. But if your board members are misaligned in terms of character, you will have a tedious governancejourney.

So, let’s say you do have a committed board that wants to ensure that the organisation remains set on its true north:

  • How often and in which ways can the board and leadership be equipped to grow in ethical awareness and application?

  • Who is responsible to identify potential risks that may result in detrimental consequences for the organisation? How often and in which areas must these risk assessments be done?

  • In which areas of the organisation are moral lapses most likely to occur? What is in place to mitigate those risks?

  • In terms of the board and leadership itself, are there any dual roles and potential conflicts of interest that may be detrimental to the NPO?

  • Does the board have the relevant knowledge, skills and frameworks to address ethical challenges?

Some people hold the opinion that intentional ongoing ethical discussions are not important for NPOs. They assume that ethics is already embedded in their organisation and trust that their board, leadership and staff will do the right thing.

But if you are on a quest to leave a lasting legacy, you will do well to remember the admonition of Price Pritchett: “When we get enough people, who don’t care and who don’t accept personal responsibility for high ethical standards, our organisation will get the ‘M’ disease. Mediocrity.”

So, be intentional in growing as a NPO team that values personal responsibility for high ethical standards. Then your NPO will be known as a faithful bridge-builder with excellent impact.