Ep 59: Scaling Up Your Nonprofit (with Kathleen Kelly Janus)

by Joan Garry

Your nonprofit has hit a wall and you want to scale up. But how? Why do some organizations grow and others do not? In this episode, Kathleen demystifies the process for “biggie-sizing” your nonprofit.


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There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the US, and ⅔ of them have a budget under $500K. That means there are a whole lot of underfunded organizations that would love to scale up.

My guest, Kathleen Janus, says there are the five things you need to get to the next level and scale up:

  1. Testing and innovation and piloting projects early on
  2. Measuring impact and developing a system for data collection
  3. Fundraising experimentation to develop a mission-driven model
  4. Collective leadership
  5. Storytelling

Kathleen and I do a deep dive into each of these five items, why they matter, and how to approach them.

Kathleen is an expert on philanthropy, millennial engagement, and scaling organizations. As the author of the absolutely terrific book, Social Startup Success, she conducted roughly 100 interviews with nonprofit leaders and found very strong correlations in what worked for those who grew their organizations vs. those who did not.

Today she shares her findings with us.

About Kathleen Janus

Kathleen Kelly Janus is a social entrepreneur, author and lecturer at Stanford University. As an expert on philanthropy, millennial engagement, and scaling early stage organizations, her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tech Crunch and the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the co-founder of Spark, the largest network of millennial donors in the world. Based in the heart of the Silicon Valley, she is the author of the terrific book Social Startup Success: How The Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale and Make a Difference. The book features best practices for early-stage nonprofit organizations based on a five-year research project interviewing hundreds of top-performing social entrepreneurs.

In this episode

  • The key to nonprofit success based on Kathleen’s research
  • Building a mindset of social entrepreneurship
  • How do you shift the injustices that lead to suffering and inequalities?
  • Kathleen’s biggest (and surprising) takeaway
  • How to determine the most impactful use of limited resources
  • Of 70% of nonprofits who gather data only 6% find it useful – how to make use of your metrics
  • Why you should be keeping up with public opinion polls