NANOE Review: This past fall, while I came across several articles that piqued my interest in the recently formed National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (NANOE). I serve the charitable sector as a university instructor, researcher, and advisor to many early-stage social enterprises and was not only curious about the varying opinions online but also found NANOE’s membership premise to be of particular interest:

“NANOE members believe that “innovation never fears a challenge” and that the greatest contribution nonprofit practitioners can make to charity is to become the creative enterprise-leaders our sector so desperately needs.”

Based on those early observations I embarked on an analysis of NANOE, its programs and organization.* My conclusions are as follows.

NANOE is an early-stage charity that aims to raise up a generation of sector leaders equipped to tackle problems of scale. To do so, they issue credentials to donors, administrators, consultants and organizations who learn new guidelines “that supercharge capacity-building.” Credentialing is supported by a web-based membership platform (called NANOE Central) comprised of libraries and research tools that support members as they navigate an online certification process.

NANOE’s formation was the culmination of a multi-year effort on the part of National Development Institute ** and Clemson University to identify and define areas of nonprofit sector practice that prevents organizational growth. Their findings were based on doctoral research (including a university-led clinical survey of 480 nonprofit executive directors), group interactions with senior leaders at 300 conference events and thousands of one-on-one discussions with donors, board members, volunteers and executive directors. They focused on nonprofit leaders who built financial capacity to alleviate or eradicate social, health, and environmental issues of scale.

NANOE, a 501(c)3 organization, incorporated in the District of Columbia in December 2015, received their IRS Letter of Determination January 2016, launched their online credentialing platform July 2016, and reported their progress to their directors at an inaugural board meeting August 2016.

To date, 2,253 individuals have joined NANOE’s Board of Governors, 322 have joined as members and 271 have achieved a NANOE credential. Initial projections indicate that NANOE could credential up to 3,000 nonprofit executives by June 2018.

As I learned about NANOE, two questions arose. First, is there really a problem that needs to be solved? Second, is NANOE developing a solution that could actually work?

As to the “problem” they state:

“Charity has been paralyzed by a set of failed “best practices” that turned the Non-Profit Sector into a Non-Growth Sector over five decades ago. Present day systems were established in the late 1960’s by industry associations that knowingly persist in methodologies detrimental to the general public.”

Over the past forty years, 46,136 for-profit businesses grew their revenues past the $50 million mark, while only 144 nonprofit enterprises reached that mark in the same time period. Simply put, few nonprofits have financially scaled.

Regarding their “solution” NANOE says:

NANOE is the only nationwide membership organization in the U.S. for Executives seeking credentials in the art of nonprofit capacity-building. Practitioners who hold a NANOE credential are “best practice” experts who grow charitable enterprise and discover new ways to advance the common good.

NANOE has organized a group of academicians, donors, consultants and practitioners who returned to the drawing board and produced a new set of governing ‘best practices’ that foster nonprofit growth. Their collective early-stage effort is reflected in New Guidelines for Tomorrow’s Nonprofit (released this past fall) and contains 100 pages of new “best practices” designed to “super-charge nonprofit capacity-building.

In order to achieve their goals, NANOE will have to provide their members meaningful products and services while building a trusted network of nonprofit leaders who believe that STRONG CEOs are the key to sector transformation.”

Here’s what members had to say about their NANOE experience.

“NANOE Credentialing pushed me to re-imagine my role as CEO. I now view capacity-building through a new lens and have seen AMVETS needs to raise more money.”

Kent Clark, CNE, CDE, CNC
Chief Executive Officer – AMVETS – Lanham, MD

“Achieving a NANOE credential provided me the single most important post-graduate educational experience of my life. Prepare for significant change if you take this on!”

Elizabeth Lyons, CDE
Director of Development – Homes for our Troops – Boston, MA

“NANOE has established a global standard for modern “best practices” that work and raise money. Finally, a membership organization that provides us what we need.”

Stephen Bradberry, CNE
Chief Executive Officer – Alliance Institute – New Orleans, LA

After reviewing their early-stage structures, programs and services you may want to ask yourself the following questions when considering NANOE’s value proposition:

  1. Would you personally benefit by mastering the capacity-building arts?
  2. Would your organization benefit by connecting to a national network of peers focused on becoming experts who build capacity?
  3. Would you enjoy shaping the future of a new organization committed to your own personal success?

Those who answer “yes” to these questions may want to:

  1. Secure a CNE, CDE or CNC credential via NANOE’s automated online credentialing platform.
  2. Deploy NANOE Central within their nonprofit. Members have unlimited user access to NANOE Central, an online membership platform containing research tools and libraries used to grow capacity.
  3. Contribute to New Guidelines for Tomorrow’s Nonprofits a new set of governing “best practices” that empower nonprofits to scale.
  4. Share your big and important ideas. NANOE’s has put in place a system a stakeholder feedback loop based on member input. Your participation will accelerate the development of programs that ensure you receive what you desire as a NANOE member.

NANOE’s philosophy of member service as stated in their materials is a simple one: ‘Find a need and meet it. Make a promise and keep it!’”

NANOE review conclusion: From Ford to Facebook, every corporation was once “early-stage.” Like any new organization, NANOE, and its leadership should be provided the benefit of the doubt in attempting to fulfill its vision. When (and if) NANOE accomplishes its mission and goals, charities will have significantly more funding to solve social problems.

* I began this NANOE review having had no past affiliation or contact with any NANOE staff, board members or their founding organizations.
** National Development Institute, established in 1990, is a 501(c)3 public benefit charity that insures donors, granting organizations and corporations safeguard their mission by building capacity within nonprofits committed to human welfare, education, healthcare, the arts, & environment.

NANOE Review – Article: Chris Markl

NANOE Review – Posted: Louis Fawcett