What Makes for the Best Nonprofits

Given the myriad of worthy causes and organizations to support, it can often be overwhelming to determine where to give.

We at Geneva Global have the privilege of advising clients on their philanthropy, so through our many years of finding and evaluating nonprofits, we have developed a process for selecting the very best organizations.

The first step is to be clear about your interests and then create a list of potential organizations that focus on those particular issues.

After we understand our client’s focus areas and what they wish to achieve, we generate a long list of potential organizations by reaching out to our global network of contacts and doing other research. Similarly, an online search and recommendations from those you trust are a great place to start.

The next step of narrowing down potential nonprofits is a more in-depth and time-intensive process. Determining the recipient organizations of our clients’ funds is a very critical step that we’ve refined over time.

There are a variety of factors that point to a well-run and results-focused nonprofit:

What’s the quality of the organization’s leadership?

This is probably the single most important thing we probe. The best leaders have great passion and dedication and often we see that they have a personal connection to the issue.

For example, we’ve come across great leaders who created their nonprofit because they or their children were trafficked, had a disability, or faced another kind of challenge. Their drive and commitment in turn inspires the rest of their staff, leading to low turnover and a more stable organization. Strong leaders have deep knowledge about the sector they are operating in and the issue they are trying to solve. 

What does the organization’s infrastructure look like?

Do they have a board and if so, is it made up of diversified and qualified individuals? Do they have proper systems and controls in place? Do they have a large enough staff to adequately execute the programs they will do with additional funding? 

Is there a spirit of cooperation and learning?

Creating lasting social change is hard and often requires a holistic approach, so we seek out organizations that are open to collaborating with others. We look for organizations that are constantly revising their programs and approaches to get better outcomes. We recognize that failures and setbacks occur, but we expect honesty and a willingness to apply those learnings to come up with smarter approaches.

Is there a long-term plan?

The best organizations have a clear plan and strategy for what they want to achieve over the next few years. If they are thinking about the future, this shows level of stability, and a long-term vision that they are working towards.

What’s the organization’s reputation?

We talk to other complementary organizations, community leaders, and other donors to learn about others’ experiences with the organization.

Does it have the ability to leverage resources?

Is the organization creative enough to figure out how to multiply its impact? This could be creating matching campaigns or approaching various donors to support a program instead of just hoping for one large donor. A good nonprofit is creative, tenacious, and scrappy in trying to maximize its positive impact.

While doing proper due diligence is an involved process, the more time you invest, the more likely you are to achieve greater satisfaction and connection with your ultimate recipient organization.

Our track record of meeting program goals for our clients is extremely high because so much time is invested at the early stage to select the very best nonprofit organizations. And outperforming on our social change goals brings satisfaction to our clients, our nonprofit partners, us, and most importantly, the beneficiaries.