The Head & The Heart

I* am happy to introduce Social Profit: a series on social impact that combines two unique perspectives. They are rarely considered together, Yet both are central not only to our work with nonprofit leaders, but – we believe – to the success of all social entrepreneurs.

First, we’ll look at some heady, organizational questions that all nonprofits face:

• How can nonprofits best scale and sustain their impact – often in the face of tremendous challenges? What lessons learned can we share – from strategy and market positioning to team building and execution? And what, if anything, might they learn from business that would help?
• And vice versa. What, if anything, can business learn from nonprofits to improve their products and services, and their own social profit?
• How can we better measure social impact in the world – especially when that world is diverse and complex?
• And – even headier still – have we siloed business, government and the nonprofit sector in ways that are unproductive?

Yet such heady questions can seem vague at times. Even tedious. More importantly, they miss some truly important, more personal issues.

• Like Why? Why do certain people join or lead nonprofits? The hours are long, the pay is often meager, and the challenges can seem overwhelming.
• Or How? How do people sustain their drive and commitment on a daily and yearly basis? How do they succeed – on the ground, in the fundraising realm, and over the long term?
• And Who? Who are these people and what can we learn from them?

These are the questions of the heart. Since both head and heart are essential, let’s look at both.

First, back to the head. We’ll draw lessons learned and best practices from over 100 nonprofit leaders around the world – including some exceptional leaders from the Gratitude Network Fellowship program (meet them here in our Impact Dashboard). We will also hear from business leaders and professional leadership coaches who support our Network. We’ll add in some research and present in a way, we hope, that invites your input and suggestions.

Second, we’ll feature a lot of heart. In other words, we’ll share personal stories from the nonprofit leaders themselves. We will hear in video links and text about why and how they began their journey to support their community. We’ll also hear about their very real struggles and triumphs. And we’ll feature their own lessons learned – and what they might do differently, so that future leaders can learn from their experience.

The result, we hope, will be a crash course on the ‘head and heart’ elements that are essential to nonprofit success and impact in the world. We welcome your suggestions on topics to cover and people to feature. Please add them here and we will respond to every one.

So, let’s get started. Our next blog will address a question that – I think – is not asked often enough: what can business learn from nonprofits? And then we’ll feature the powerful story of a woman from Madagascar who drew from her own family experience to found a nonprofit that addresses emotional abuse in the community. Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Steve McCoy-Thompson

*Steve McCoy-Thompson has worked over 30 years at the nexus of business, government and the nonprofit sector – as a management consultant to and with Fortune 100 companies and government ministries and as executive director of nonprofits and a community foundation. He is currently COO of Gratitude Network, which helps nonprofits apply best practices and business principles to reach over 40 million children worldwide.