But wait... Our nonprofit organization is about people, about doing good, about heart. How can it possibly be compared to running a business? Businesses are cold, impersonal and cut-throat. Aren't they?
It's time to rethink how we view business, our own sector and how we manage our agencies. If the economic woes of the last several years have taught us anything, it's that business is business. Cindy points out a great "hub and spoke" model management method, a method ensuring all activities relate back to the overall mission and survival of the organization. What's wrong with structuring our work to focus on impact related to our mission and organizational sustainability?
According to a Forbes article posted in late February, however, businesses have just as much to learn from nonprofit organizations. Dan Ehrenkrantz points out best practices our sector has long embraced, practices that have relevant applications in the for-profit sector:
"Yet in a world of fast-diminishing customer and employee loyalty, for-profits can learn substantial lessons from nonprofits in three areas: identifying and serving an irresistible mission that emphasizes a higher purpose; cultivating passionate employees; and keeping customers engaged and loyal." (Excerpt from "Why You Should Run Your Business Like a Nonprofit".)
Ehrenkrantz may be on to something. Just last week I attended in a workshop put on by the Miami Valley Association of Volunteer Administrators, and presenters from the fields of human resources and nonprofit administration (including volunteers) highlighted a need for re-examining an organization's employee and volunteer retention practices. It turns out that many volunteer programs have already begun adapting to a changing workforce, one focused on the needs of Generation X and Millennial workers. Making this shift with paid employees is sometimes slower, involving big decisions from executives and shifts in overall mindsets relating to what motivates today's employees. Human resources managers in nonprofit organizations may not have completed this shift in mindset entirely, but I suspect they will before their for-profit counterparts because of their own roles as or proximity to nonprofit volunteer engagement professionals.
How about you? Is your organization running like a business? In what ways? And what can for-profit businesses learn from your organization's business practices?