Nonprofit Networking: The New Way to Grow

How can a nonprofit increase its social impact? Many would say it needs to grow big to be strong. Instead, says HBS professor Jane Wei-Skillern, the answer could be in the power of strategic networks.

Whether their mission is to protect wildlife, help disabled people, or offer financial services in developing countries, nonprofit organizations often believe they need to grow big before they can achieve significant social impact.

HBS professor Jane Wei-Skillern has been exploring something different: Her research suggests that a more powerful lever to increase a nonprofit’s social impact might be to focus on building network relationships like-minded groups—even competitors. Organizations as unique as Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and Women’s World Banking (which extends microloans) are deliberately using a network strategy and discovering its potential to serve more people more effectively.

by Martha Lagace, Senior Editor, HBS Working Knowledge

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