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Nonprofit strategists can increase an organization’s impact

The main operational challenge nonprofit management and leadership face is overhead (37% on average)1. To lessen the impact of operational costs, nonprofits are always gunning for efficiency so a larger percentage of donations are available to fulfill the organization’s mission. Here are three stories of nonprofit operations management thinking outside the box and vastly increasing their organization’s impact. As you embark on your own career, it’s important to recognize critical challenges as opportunities to make an incredible difference.

Heejae Lim, TalkingPoints

The mission of TalkingPoints2 is to increase student achievement by connecting teachers and families using mobile technology. While parent engagement tools already exist, they are largely designed for a higher-income social tier. Upon realizing that students from low-income, immigrant families perform 40 percent lower on standardized tests than their peers, the founder of TalkingPoints, Heejae Lim, decided to focus on this group of students and under-resourced teachers. The starting point for Lim was the knowledge that parental engagement has a stronger impact on student success than socioeconomic status. The challenge was to turn this insight into impactful actions. Due to their wide availability, mobile phones became the communication bridge between the school and the students’ households. This approach was enhanced by a multilingual family engagement platform powered by A.I. and human two-way translation. For Heejae Lim, the impact of this strategy goes beyond an increase of homework completion (400%, by the way): “We have facilitated more than 5 million conversations for a quarter-million families through web and mobile applications and text messages. When communications are in their native language, family members are more informed and feel included in their community.”

The main operational challenge nonprofit management and leadership face is overhead (37% on average).

Nonprofit Strategists Can Increase an Organization's Impact_body1_african american father and son

Jared Chung,

Careervillage.org3 4 crowdsources career advice for low-income students. After years of fundraising and recruiting volunteers to provide high-quality counsel, founder Jared Chung saw an opportunity to turn the nonprofit’s reliance on volunteers into a strength. Chung realized that by turning the volunteers’ employers into partners, would become more sustainable. With that goal in mind, Chung convinced several Fortune 500 companies to get involved by pointing out that the nonprofit’s success is in their best interest. “I’ll call out Facebook as an example”, says Chung. “This company is going to hire tons of people for decades, and their headquarters sit at the edge of two low-income communities that desperately need economic opportunity.” Currently CareerVillage’s platform has 10,000 professionals available to answer career questions and has provided advice to more than one million students. The answer rate is 99.9 percent. Nonprofit Strategists Can Increase an Organization's Impact_children_girls_smiling_overseas

Sherrie Caltagirone, Global Emancipation Network (GEN)

Human trafficking claims an average of 21 million people a year, and reports as much as $50 billion to criminal enterprises.

GEN’s5 mission is to fight this threat by facilitating communication and technology-sharing initiatives between anti-trafficking stakeholders. The organization found itself stuck in a game of “whack-a-mole”, shutting down websites that would shortly re-emerge under a different guise.

To overcome this problem and tackle full networks instead, GEN built a tool called Minerva, an investigative analytics platform that monitors open data and the dark web. It also connects information like facial recognition and reverse image searches. When the data points start building up, GEN uses Minerva to monitor traffic flow and know where to concentrate their efforts.

According to Executive Director Sherrie Caltagirone, “it doesn’t take any more than a Google search to look at an adult website. You can pull up thousands. And hidden in the noise of consensual sex workers is usually sex trafficking.”

Using data analysis techniques, GEN was able to identify nearly 1,000 traffickers in two months and 100,000 victims in 2017 (twice more than in 2016).

In each of these cases, the nonprofit succeeded by sharpening their focus and showing willingness to rethink their approach. Career starters in nonprofit operations should be looking for ways to apply these characteristics of successful nonprofit organizations and trigger change from the inside.

(1) Clervi, A. (2015, November 9th). 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Cut Operating Costs for 2016. Retrieved from
(2) The 74. Lim: Technology Can Break Down Barriers Between Schools and Families, No Matter What Languages They Speak. Retrieved from
(3) Chung, J. (2018, October 5th). 3 Things Tech Companies Can Do to Make a Positive Social Impact. Retrieved from
(4) Barenblat, K. (2016, May 14th). Three Ways Tech Is Reinventing a Surprising Sector. Retrieved from
(5) Magee, Tamlin (2019, January 14th). Inside GEN, the Nonprofit Combatting Human Trafficking with Big Data. Retrieved from
Editorial photo credit: Det-anan /
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