Why Your Nonprofit May Be Operating Below Operational Competence Levels

Have you ever met a nonprofit leader who intentionally manages below operational competence? Neither have I.

The problem is that only 6% of managers actually perform above operational competence. (Source: HBR 2017)

94% of all managers mistakenly assume that they are above average in operational competency. They are not. 

Is it any wonder that most nonprofits always seem to be scrambling for resources, talent, or the next BIG thing?

So, what are the commonalities and similarities of the 6% managing above operational competence levels?

  • Is it experience, background, or education? It is not.
  • Is it sector, location, or years of service? It is not.
  • Is it annual budget, available technology, or organizational size? It is not.

The similarity is that these operationally competent organizations are run by leaders who follow similar rules of leadership and management. 

Best Practices Create the Best Managers

The common denominator is that they all have high BPQ levels, as coined by The Center. 

BPQ is short for Best Practices Quotient and represents the organization’s demonstrable level of operational competence. The higher the BPQ, the higher the level of operational competence.  

Like EQ and IQ, BPQ is a predictor of demonstrable competence. EQ measures your emotional intelligence. IQ measures your intellectual intelligence. BPQ measures your best practices intelligence.

Why is BPQ so important?

Nonprofits want more funding. Funders want more confidence. More confidence comes from demonstrated operational competence. Operational competence is determined by your BPQ levels. 

Nonprofits with higher BPQ levels demonstrate higher levels of operational competency. Higher levels of operational competency give funders more confidence. Funders with more confidence give nonprofits more funding.   

The Six Degrees of Best Practice Separation

To understand BPQ, we must identify and pursue best practices and operational competence in all areas of our nonprofit endeavors, regardless of our size or sector.

Here is the BPQ shortlist of the six best practice areas to consider. They are:

  1. Program Management & Accountability
  2. Fundraising, Marketing & Communications
  3. Governance, Legal & Risk Management
  4. Accounting & Financial
  5. People & Organizational Development
  6. Business Systems, IT & Facilities

Each of these best practice areas has six to nine sub-categories. Each sub-category has four levels of operational competence. Remember, the higher the BPQ, the higher the level of operational competence.

The linchpin is a having a leader committed to achieving higher levels of BPQ for the organization. A leader from any of the six best practice areas can become the lever to achieving above operational competence in all areas. 

Are you interested in raising the level of your nonprofit’s operational competence?

We should talk.


Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Center. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different nonprofits, overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.