Non-profits are not businesses. That simple fact is being ignored in the vast majority of economic mumbo jumbo currently written about non-profits. Non-profits can, of course, be businesslike in their operations: they can have efficiently run organizations and a well-trained staff, and they can certainly deliver superior results.
Non-profits are not businesses in that people give money to non-profits with no possibility of getting it back. Donating to a charity is not the same as investing in the stock market or putting money in a savings account or money market fund.
Non-profits are not businesses in that people volunteer to work at non-profits. Volunteers at a non-profit are actually making a double contribution. Not only are they working for free, they pay a personal “opportunity cost,” missing out on money they could be earning and time they could spend elsewhere if they were not donating time and talent to the non-profit. Most importantly, for many non-profits, if the volunteers were not there to help deliver the services, the non-profit simply could not exist.
Non-profits are not businesses in that people care so passionately about the non-profit’s mission they willingly donate time, money and energy to help the charity succeed. When was the last time you went to your local supermarket and said, “Hi, I’m here to work for you for free, where do I start?” Or, “Since you only charged me $80 for my groceries, let me give you an additional $20 just because I’m glad you’re here.”
When you apply the norms of non-profits to businesses, it becomes immediately apparent that non-profits bear little resemblance to typical businesses.
Non-profits are not businesses in that they are more complex than businesses, needing to satisfy many more stakeholders and constituencies before they are able to say, “Yes, we are successful.” Businesses really only need to satisfy their owners (and their customers), and yes, of course, they need to operate within the law. It’s also true that many businesses are good corporate citizens and donate lots of money to various charities; indeed, some of the best encourage volunteerism in their employees, and I applaud all of them.
The point, however, is that non-profits are more complex entities than businesses, and have many more constituencies than owners or shareholders. Non-profits must also satisfy the community; their board of directors; their service recipients; their donors; their volunteers; and their professional staff. Some that provide services on behalf of government contracts have many additional sets of requirements for service delivery, reporting, and government auditing regulations for contractors. Non-profits must also meet the legal requirements of being a non-profit (as defined by law and IRS regulations).
Some of the current efforts to come up with the dollar value of donated time or count the hours that one donates cheapen the whole concept of the non-profit sector. These efforts are doomed to failure because they miss the fundamental point of “Why?” Why does someone volunteer? Why does someone give money? I believe that the short, truthful, and unifying answer for all donors and volunteers is the response, “I care!”
Donors and volunteers naturally want recognition, and to know that their gifts (monies or personal effort) are being used effectively; they may give more because of the tax codes at certain times of the year. But the first and fundamental response is always, “I care, that is why I give,” or “I care, that is why I donate my time to this great non-profit.”
That is to be absolutely applauded and celebrated, and it is one of the unique and unifying qualities of being an American. We are the most generous people on earth, with Americans giving more than $260 billion in 2005 according to Giving USA. That fact should be recognized, celebrated, and applauded.
What Do All Non-profits Share?
So if non-profits are not businesses, what are they? All non-profits share a common purpose, and it is actually a very simple concept. They exist to make their community and the world a better place. Now granted, the exact definition of what constitutes “a better place” is not easily agreed upon, and differs widely among these non-profits. That’s fine. There are more than 1.4 million non-profits in the United States, and there are probably 1.4 million different answers to that question. I have decided to not list all 1.4 million mission statements from these organizations, but even without having read all of them, if you look for the common ground you’ll see that they believe that accomplishing their mission would make the world a better place.
To learn more about the ways that workplace giving can promote the common good, as well as provide leadership development opportunities, please go to http://www.cfcfundraising.com and request my special report about the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Nonprofit Leadership Development-Where is the best place to practice leadership skills?
By Bill Huddleston
Did you learn to swim by reading a book?
The answer of course is no, even if you did read about the different strokes, breathing methods and different types of kicks. Sooner or later, you actually had to get into the water.
In the realm of leadership development, the same principle applies. You can take very valuable and informative courses, you can read books, articles and blogs about the subject and talk to people as well as observe leaders in action. You can participate in valuable organizations that teach you and give you some experiential opportunities (such as Toastmasters International – which I highly recommend). To actually develop your leadership skills you have to lead people.
So where can you get practical experience in actually doing this? Eli Manning and Peyton Manning did not play their first football game in the Superbowl; Yo Yo Ma did not have his first concert at Carnegie Hall.
Even the best in the world find a good place to practice before the performance, and they devote the time and energy necessary to developing their skills before they go on stage whatever the specific type of stage is, including leadership in the non-profit sector.
Most leadership experts would agree that these skills are fundamental for all leaders:
• Interpersonal skills (including Team Building).
• Oral communication
• Written Communication
• Continual Learning
I would add that project management principles and skills are necessary for success in the 21st Century.
In the non-profit sector, whether you are an emerging leader eager to develop your own skills, or someone responsible for the leadership development program of your organization, there exists a unique opportunity to develop these skills, by participating in workplace giving campaigns, such as the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), Americas Charities Campaigns, and United Way campaigns, etc.
Workplace giving is a unique method of fundraising within the non-profit sector, and many think of it only in terms of fundraising. But workplace giving campaigns have unique benefits – which I call “Hidden Treasures.” Briefly, in workplace giving, the actual solicitations are performed by the employees of the organization, during the workday, hence the name “workplace giving.”
Some of the other “Hidden Treasures” of workplace giving campaigns include conducting inexpensive market research, leverage of your development efforts, and exposure to a much wider audience than is possible on your own, plus developing multiple year revenue streams.
However, the focus of this article is leadership development, and in workplace giving campaigns there are campaign events known as “charity fairs.” In a charity fair, selected charities from the workplace giving catalog are invited to come to the organization’s offices, and staff a table with their representatives, give out their materials, and answer any questions that the potential donors might ask. One of the biggest “hidden treasures” of workplace giving campaigns is that they can be the ideal “practice field” for emerging non-profit leaders.
Charity fairs are one of the best leadership development opportunities that exist in the non-profit world. Non-profits that have learned how to integrate workplace giving campaigns into their overall leadership development efforts can use them to provide low risk, high value opportunities to their staff in a number of areas, including project management, public speaking, and team building. For example, the skills that can be developed and practiced through participation in charity fairs include:
Oral Communication – public speaking skills –you can practice your “elevator speech” dozens of times in the course of a campaign.
Team Building – the non-profit action officer can get practical experience in creating and leading a team, whether they are paid staff or volunteers.
Listening Skills – the non-profit team will have the opportunity to listen to hundreds of people in your community – what are they saying, what’s most important to them, etc. These are your potential donors and supporters – does your mission resonate with them, are they aware of your organization, etc.?
Written Communication – there are multiple opportunities to develop one’s writing ranging from simple memos to an analysis of the comments from the members of the community that were made at the charity fairs that is prepared for the executive and board leadership.
The paradox of workplace giving programs is that precisely because they are not a high risk or high cost program they can be an ideal “practice field or rehearsal hall” for leadership development. No one is going to “blow” a major gift solicitation at a charity fair, but the future leader can gain experience in “reading people.”
To learn more about the world’s largest workplace giving campaign, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), please go to the http://www.cfcfundraising website and request your copy of my free report about the CFC, which includes a brief description of how to apply for inclusion in America’s largest workplace giving campaign, the CFC.
Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert
MPA in Nonprofit Management