Business Strategy in a Nonprofit? LEADING YOUR NONPROFIT – almost – LIKE A BUSINESS

When I discuss working on growth with a nonprofit organization, I inevitably get a response something like this: “It sounds good but that only works in a business. “We are a charity/agency/government department/professional association and we are not like a business.”

While there are some fundamental differences, there are more similarities. As in a business, a nonprofit must “sell” something. This might be a service, a cause, an image, a need, a brand, a product…or maybe all of them. This may not be done in exactly the same way as in the department store or the online business but the nonprofit organization must undertake most of the same activities a for-profit business must engage in:

• Develop a plan and goals.
• Sell / Bring in money.
• Hire the right people for the right positions.
• Work effectively as a team.
• Implement succession planning.
• Market their “cause” or “service”.
• Do the accounting and file tax returns.
• Implement the necessary administrative, insurance, legal and other risk management initiatives.

Leadership in a non-profit organization does not look much different from leadership in a business. So many of the basics are critical, regardless of mission.

One key business tool is a business plan. Businesses should have and use a plan. In our personal lives, we should have a financial plan. In a non-profit organization, there should be a plan with clear objectives so that everyone in the organization understands them. This may be even more important in the non-profit, where your donors also need to understand your mission and objectives.

Process improvement (business process improvement, or a quality system such as ISO 9000 in a company) is another critical area often overlooked. We tend to just “do things” and not take a step back to see how we might improve. They may be the right things to do and they might be done well, but how can we get better at it to better support our mission. More on Business Process Improvement.

We tend to think of the “customer engagement” of a company but “donor engagement” or “member engagement” of a non-profit. The reality is that looking at them as a customer puts a whole new light on how the non-profit can build its image and brand.

And the list goes on. I have consulted with, and been on the boards of, business clients, charitable organizations, professional associations, government entities and other non-profit organizations. Some of the dynamics will be different but the foundational concepts of organizational management are closer than we realize.

Bringing in some of these “business” concepts and experiences, married to a mission, can be extremely powerful.

David Shavzin, CMC

The Value Track
Succession Planning / Exit Planning, Building Transferable Value for Sale
Atlanta, Georgia
Our BLOG // LinkedIn //