Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nonprofits' Impact

Okay. So nonprofits' missions are important, right? What about their impact? And by impact, I mean results that extend beyond their immediate stakeholders to have broader social impact.

Heather McLeod Grant & Leslie R. Crutchfield wrote about "high impact" nonprofits in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This article is a executive summary of sorts concerning their book "Forces for Good" which examines well regarded nonprofits like Teach for America and one of my all-time favorite organizations, Durham's own Self-Help Credit Union.

What McLeod Grant and Crutchfield point to as evidence of the broader impact of Self-Help include the voice they have established for responsible lending practices through their affiliate, you guessed it, the Center for Responsible Lending. Those of you following the sub-prime meltdown through national media like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times may have noticed CRL staff frequently quoted. They seem to be the go-to folks for understanding subprime from the perspective of all of those homeowners with "upside down" and other precarious subprime mortgages.

So what comes across my virtual desk from a student this past week? Yet another great illustration of nonprofit impact, this time focusing on the world of check cashing joints and money stores (what scholars in this area like Michael Barr at Michigan call "alternative financial services"). Seems that there's a nonprofit credit union out in California (I think - forgive me - it's a long article) that's buying up these "money stores", which tend to be favored by lower-income customers who eschew the perceived and real costs of mainstream checking accounts.

I love it. Talk about impact. Use your deposits to impact a market in dire need of reform which mainstream banks (who by the way have their hands full with de-leveraging, right?) have shown little interest.

For me, I'd love the gaudy neon lights announcing "Mr. Money Man" or "Checks Cashed Here!!!" next to the Food Lions and H&R Blocks (hey folks, I'm in the South) replaced by the staid and rather boring awnings of a good ol' fashioned, Bailey Savings & Loan-esque credit union!

Okay, so they fall under a different subsection of Internal Revenue Code Section 501c than organizations we commonly call "nonprofit" because they are "not for profit "cooperative institutions", but heck, good enough for me to include in McLeod Grant and Crutchfield's book!

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