Although all aspects of what they do are important, it isn’t enough for nonprofits to improve delivery of services, increase operational efficiency, and scale up programs to meet their community’s increasing needs. High-impact nonprofits must work to address, reduce, mitigate, or eliminate the social issues of their charitable function.

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant is a worthwhile read for the leadership teams, boards, and finance professionals of nonprofit organizations.

Forces for Good is a research study of 12 high-impact nonprofit organizations and the common traits they employed to achieve the most significant impact. Those six practices are to advocate and serve (change can’t be achieved through service delivery alone), make markets work (finding ways for both parties to benefit works better than appealing to pure altruism), inspire evangelists (connect others to the mission through meaningful experiences), nurture nonprofit networks (collaborate with other nonprofits), master the art of adaptation (listen, learn, and modify the organization’s approach), and share leadership responsibilities (throughout the organization and in the community).

According to the authors, high-impact organizations seek to understand the causality of the social issue to which they’re dedicated and address that larger picture. Crutchfield and McLeod Grant claim that nonprofits are especially good at creating, scaling up, and measuring programs to meet communities’ needs, whereas their impact is much more difficult to quantify.

Social issues are complex and require a broad, holistic approach to address effectively. The authors help illuminate how high-impact nonprofits gauge economic and market factors and engage and work with all stakeholders, including government agencies and community leaders, for collective gain. For example, the Environmental Defense Fund partnered with McDonald’s to change to biodegradable packaging, which increased profits for the corporation and had a significant positive environmental impact.

Collaboration between nonprofits is essential to increasing their impact. A collaboration mind-set achieves greater collective success by freely sharing ideas, wealth, content, talent, and expertise. The goal of all nonprofits is to increase their positive impact; Forces for Good is a great tool to help them do just that.

About the Authors