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Beyond fulfilling an intrinsic competitive desire to be the “best,” do rankings really matter? Let’s be honest, you don't need a survey to tell you Harvard is a top university -- but rankings can give a lesser-known school a chance to shine because of a niche program, a high commitment to student service or even because they have the best dorm food. But, what about when it comes to ranking the nonprofit sector?
This is a question I started pondering after participating in a discussion about the value of a “Best Nonprofits” ranking system. And, before I get too far, I have to note that our colleagues at Independent Sector have been exploring the concept of nonprofit rankings for the past year. In fact, in December, IS released an RFP for an initiative they’re calling the “Great Nonprofit and Philanthropic Places to Work Initiative” and as such, they note two primary programmatic goals for this work:
- Improve talent management practices in the nonprofit community
- Raise the visibility and viability of the nonprofit community as a desirable career destination
Now, I have no reservations about the fact that good talent is critical to achieving organizational impact – and the nonprofit sector indeed faces challenges not only attracting but retaining both diverse and high quality professionals to fill organizational needs. But, my interest in participating in this discussion stemmed from a personal interest as well as that of the Case Foundation’s, in focusing on the rising generation – or NextGen’s as we’ve been aptly referred to at sector wide conferences this past year.
Nonprofit rankings or rankings of any sort for that matter, are only as meaningful as the methodology used and the areas of focus chosen. It’s not yet clear how open the Independent Sector rankings process will be, but I have a hunch that a small but impassioned group will continue to push for a focus on the generation entering the sector.
If I had the opportunity to develop my own criteria for ranking the nonprofit sector – I’d take a look at how nonprofit organizations are adapting and changing with the times. Rather than stifling new talent, how are individuals able to grow and be challenged in their roles at nonprofits? How does this compare to their peers in the for profit community? How does the organization embrace diversity, work-life balance, and for goodness sake, does it have a Twitter feed?