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Fueling Impact: It's what we do

When we talk about a truly successful nonprofit, are we discussing impact or performance? As the fiscal year comes to an end, GCN President and CEO Karen Beavor considers what you really need to create meaningful, sustainable benefits for your community.

Spring has sprung, and for us—along with about 60 percent of nonprofits—that means wrapping up the fiscal year in June. Now is the time both to reflect on our performance, and to plan how the organization intends to make an impact in the coming fiscal year.

At GCN, our trainers and consultants are always busy working with organizations doing exactly that: stopping to reflect on their strategies and their project plans. In the process, we find ourselves in many conversations about the definition of a truly successful nonprofit organization. In particular, the question often comes down to whether we are talking about high performance or high impact.

This isn’t just semantics, either. Performance can be readily observed, in real time, at any point in the process of carrying out your mission. Impact, on the other hand, often can only be seen in retrospect—usually after years of “performance.” Yes, high-impact nonprofits are the ideal to which we all aspire, but the ideal is something you journey toward. The ideal is not, as a rule, something you can achieve instantaneously.

Nonprofits tend to get wrapped up in aspiration, pursuing a new program or idea that they hope will be a game-changer. Philanthropy, on the other hand, rewards evidence of impact. Both are valid priorities, but we need to remember that only nonprofits performing at their best are in a position to deliver great programs consistently—and consistent performance over time is what creates impact.

That’s why the nonprofits achieving the greatest impact don’t get there by having the best programs, but through solid execution. A great program that isn’t supported by a strategic plan, an active board, and compelling leadership—among other qualities GCN has identified as being common to High Performance Nonprofits—will never be delivered with fidelity, gain traction, or be able to scale, in order to make a truly meaningful impact. High Performance is the fuel that drives high impact.

At GCN, our work revolves around fueling impact. We do that by identifying, customizing, and implementing the High Performance practices that power your mission. 

Over the past year, and through the next, we have and will work continuously to help you understand and adopt High Performance practices. It’s our mission, every day, to bring you tools that scale your impact and, ultimately, create thriving communities across Georgia. Those tools include programs like Nonprofit University, Georgia Gives Day, and Momentum; the leveraging power of our statewide member network; as well as tools and insights like the strategy tutorial crafted by GCN EVP Chris Allers for this issue of NOW. Over the past year, GCN programming alone played a part in the continued progression of more than 3,000 organizations around the state toward High Performance and greater mission impact.

We invite you to learn more about how our work supports your success, and about GCN’s own performance journey, by checking out our annual report.

Karen Beavor is president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

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