What makes a not-for-profit 'well-run'? 

From our many years working in the not-for-profit sector, we often hear the phrases 'we are a well-run organisation' or 'we only support well-run not-for-profits'. Indeed, when the Packers launched their $200m philanthropic fund, one of the three criteria to apply was that you had to be 'well-run'.

When we asked those in the sector how they defined being 'well-run', the answers were vague and inconsistent. This inspired us to find out what people thought being 'well-run' really meant. So in 2015 we conducted a survey to start a discussion around the question, "What makes a not-for-profit well-run?" The survey indicated that the two most important elements in being well-run are:

1. Being crystal clear on your purpose, vision and direction

2. Having great people, with a particular focus on great leadership.

In 2017 we wanted to again survey the sector on this topic, to both see how responses had changed since 2015 and to also delve deeper into some issues such as governance, leadership, collaboration and internal capacity building.

The 2017 report indicated that a lack of appropriate internal investment in not-for-profit organisations may be contributing to why most respondents thought the majority of not-for-profit organisations are not well-run. Not-for-profit organisations should therefore ensure they have an internal investment decision making framework so that decisions on what to spend on people, technology, innovation, systems, processes etc. are made wisely and with a long term view.