For 12 years, I was a consultant to dozens of nonprofits, working with them on strategy and evaluation. Over and again, during the course of the engagement, a CEO or board member would say, “We are the best kept secret in [our city].” What they meant was that they were proud of the innovative, high-quality work they were doing, but were frustrated by the challenges in attracting the attention of stakeholders, particularly potential funders.
With today’s launch of the S&I 100 Index, the Social Impact Exchange is taking a step to help great nonprofits to share their secret. The S&I 100 is the first-ever broad index of U.S. nonprofits working in education, youth development, poverty, or health and have evidence of results and are ready to grow.
The goal: to build the growth capital marketplace in the nonprofit sector, so that more philanthropic dollars go to support effective organizations seeking to scale their impact. Like the S&P 500 index which gives investors an easy way to invest with confidence, the S&I 100 lets donors know which nonprofits consistently deliver impact.
When you go to the Index, you will find a diverse group of truly impressive organizations that are ready to expand their important work. Some of them are name brands you will likely recognize, but you will also discover many new groups as well. The myriad approaches include home visiting, mentoring, charter schools, college access and success, recidivism reduction, asset and career development for low income people, teacher training, and access to health care.
Each of these organizations has met the high standards established by the Social Impact Exchange in collaboration with funders, thought leaders, and practitioners who care about scaling social impact. To be eligible for consideration, nonprofits must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be U.S.-based, and work in one of the four identified issue areas
- Be scaling their impact through program replication or dissemination of effective practice
- Have quantitative study conducted by a third party (e.g., randomized control trial, quasi-experimental study, or outcomes evaluation) documenting the positive impact of their work
- Have a business plan or strategic growth plan articulating their growth targets, business model, and operations and marketing plans (among other things).
If an organization meets these initial criteria, they are invited to submit various documents indicating they are both “scale-worthy” and “scale-ready.” These materials are then reviewed and scored by independent reviewers.
The standards are so high because the stakes are so high. We know that the challenges our society faces are great. We also know that there is too little information about effective solutions. And most of all, we know that there has to be a more effective and efficient way to get money to support the expansion of those programs and initiatives that have shown positive results. It is our hope that the S&I 100 is a step toward helping great nonprofits share their secret so that they can get the resources they need to help turn the tide.
Anne Sherman is the Vice President of Nonprofit Strategy, Social Impact Exchange at Growth Philanthropy Network.