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New Report on Management Tool Use

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The Bridgespan Group released a report aimed at understanding the role management tools play in the efforts of nonprofit leaders to boost their organizations’ performance. The Bridgespan Group has just launched a multi-year effort to help nonprofits strengthen their performance using management tools. The study also highlights the gaps between leadership attitudes on key nonprofit management trends and actions regarding which tools to use, how often and for what purpose.

According to co-author of the report Paul Carttar, a Bridgespan senior advisor, “The survey provides insights into how well these tools help leaders respond to trends in the sector. We hope this will be valuable information for leaders who aspire to create high-performing, high-impact organizations.”

Tools_2014_IncreaseToolUse_PhilanthropyJournalHighlights from the study’s findings include:

  • Tool use is widespread and poised for further growth (91% said they plan to use 11 tools or more in 2015).
  • Relationship-oriented tools are more popular than analytic tools, with partnerships and collaboration leading in use and satisfaction.
  • Satisfaction with tools used is generally high but varies with effort invested.

“While we anticipated some of the findings”, said Carttar, “There were also many surprises, especially relating to gaps between trends and practice.” For example:

  • Tools and trends at times diverge: Misalignment occurs between opinions on trends and related tool usage in two prominent cases:
    • First, nonprofit leaders see a need to increase performance measurement both to strengthen impact and their case for program funding, but few believe funders will increase support for evaluations.
    • Also, many nonprofits consider talent management a key issue, but 60% have failed to take advantage of tools that could help assess and develop employees.
  • Leaders’ attitudes toward specific pathways to grow impact vary dramatically by size of organization (e.g., organizations of all sizes are betting on partnerships and collaborations, but larger ones are more likely to explore technology and for-profit models).

Tools_2014_PartnershipsCollaboration_PhilanthropyJournalThe report itself was modeled on a similar business survey that has been conducted by Bain & Company since 1993, which has become a widely-used resource for business leaders around the world.

Co-author and Bridgespan Senior Director Chris Lindquist said, “We intend to conduct this survey biannually, to stimulate questions, test practice, spark experiments, and ultimately help nonprofit leaders match tools to task and achieve results.”

Funded in part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and developed with the help of Bain & Company’s Advanced Analytics Group, the survey questions included input from more than two dozen sector practitioners, funders, and intermediaries and was distributed to more than 50,000 executives. Bridgespan plans to conduct the survey biannually to stimulate questions, test practice, spark experiments, and ultimately help nonprofit managers get better results.


The Bridgespan Group is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists who work on issues related to society’s most important challenges and to break cycles of intergenerational poverty.

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