Russell Dennis

  Russell Dennis


Many nonprofit leaders I have spoken with over the last couple of years feel they face more obstacles than ever before growing and sustaining their organizations. More nonprofits are being formed all the time and they are competing for a funding pool that is not growing as fast as the number of new organizations. But there is no need to fear when an organization is built on a solid foundation. High-performance nonprofits have seven things in common that form a solid foundation for growth.

Value, Vision, and Mission Statements That Are Clear and Concise

These are the why, what, and how of the organization, specifically, why it exists, the impact it is here to make, and exactly how it plans to go about delivering it. The organization’s values match those of supporters to the cause and the people who pay for the services they provide for public benefit. There is no confusion around who they serve, either.

Transformational Leaders

These are visionary leaders who have mastered the art of building leaders around them and creating organizations with High Innovation Quotients. According to Hugh Ballou of the SynerVision Leadership Foundation, these leaders do 10 things:

• Clearly Articulate Values and Goals
• Clearly Define What Others Can Do
• Build Leaders Within Teams
• Effectively Delegate
• Encourage Boldness
• Give Information and Support
• Affirm and Celebrate Competence
• Respect Individuals
• Avoid Micromanaging
• Model What They Preach

Culture of Shared Responsibility and Accountability

These organizations know that one person alone cannot succeed or generate the type of impact they want to create. The collective group of people involved creates the vision under the guidance of transformational leaders, and takes personal responsibility for that success. Everything, from fundraising to delivering superior service, is shared by directors, trustees, staff, servant leaders, and advisors. They hold themselves and one another accountable.

Clarity Around Their Operating Environments

They know who else is operating in their fields of interest, and what makes their work stand out from all the others who do it. They have contingency plans and keep reserves on hand for unanticipated external events that can impact funding, compliance, and operations. Because of these things, they are prepared to deliver services during times of emergency and economic upheaval.

Detailed Organizational Inventories

Whether you are talking about people, physical assets, or intellectual property, enlightened organizations know exactly what they have and are fully aware of what they need. This gives them the knowledge they need to create action plans to fill those gaps, and to ensure that they always work from a position of strength.

Comprehensive Fundraising Plans

Leaders of these organizations understand fully that nonprofit does not mean no money. They plan for operating at surpluses in preparation for lean times. They do not put all their eggs in one basket, opting instead for a diverse pool of funding sources that make sense, considering their circumstances.

The key is looking to sources with values, visions, and missions that are aligned with the organization. No two are exactly alike, so the number of sources for funding is large enough so that removal of one will not cripple them, but not so large that they execute poorly on implementing strategies designed to effectively raise funds from all of them.

Full Engagement with Those They Touch

People are the number one driver for the success of nonprofits. Anyone who invests in, or partners with, a nonprofit is betting on the team’s ability to deliver the impact they said they would. These organizations have mastered the art of creating win-win-win propositions that empower people within and outside of the organization to succeed in making impactful changes.

They define the value they deliver in terms that are meaningful to everyone they come into contact with in daily operations. Everyone who works for, works with, gets services from, and pays for services these nonprofits offer sticks with these organizations because they get more of what they look for from them. Building a solid foundation is the first of 4 Steps to Building a High-Performance Nonprofit.

Russell Dennis is CEO of RD Dennis Enterprises, LLC. He is host of the Nonprofit Culture of Success Show and co-host of SynerVision Leadership Foundation’s Nonprofit Exchange Podcast. He creates customized tools that are easy to access, understand, and use to help social profits raise more funds and attract more support for their missions. You can find him at and at user name RmanRussDen on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Go to to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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Join Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis and their guests on our weekly Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange at 2 pm Eastern time.
If you already have a nonprofit or are thinking of starting one, this will be very helpful. Put it on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!
The Nonprofit Exchange on Tuesdays at 2 pm ET has been quite beneficial for many participants and we have enjoyed sharing thoughts and tips for moving past the stuck places we all find in leading an organization to achieving its mission.
Learn more and access archives HERE.
As the famous British Composer and Conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams once said, “Music does not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” If you replace the word “Music” with the word “Leadership” or “Team” or “Strategy” etc., then we all give and receive value from others. That’s the spirit of the Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange encounters, sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’sCommunity for Community Builders.”

You can join the conversation on Zoom or watch on Facebook Live Video. It’s your choice. You can comment on Facebook and on the Zoom chat box on any device.

Put this on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!

We’ll “see” YOU on the call. Here’s to your greater success!

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