PMA Consulting, LLC

Why Can’t Your Nonprofit Run More Like A Business?

I led with this intentionally provocative quote during my presentation last week at the NC Philanthropy Conference in Greensboro.   I’ve heard the refrain from both board members and funders lately, and listened to equally frustrated nonprofit professionals who express their disappointment with their own refrain: “board members just don’t get it.”

As my presentation attempted to explain, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  Nonprofits can learn from business and better adapt their practices to not only improve efficiency but also become more attractive to discerning funders.  Of course, a purely business approach to nonprofit management misses the fundamental vision and passion that is equally important to the success and “fundability” of an organization.

The presentation featured 15 selections from popular business reading lists that I believe have much to offer aspiring nonprofit leaders. While appreciative of the great presentations and topical discussions that frequently occur at nonprofit conferences, I do sense the field often focuses narrowly on topics that are isolated to the nonprofit sector when in fact we need to expand our thinking and bring different schools of thought to the discussion.

Authors who may be more familiar to readers of business and strategy like Ram Charan, Patrick Lencioni and Marcus Buckingham were well received by the largely nonprofit leaders in the audience.  Nonprofit executives do indeed run complex businesses.  Their dedication to learning the best of nonprofit AND for-profit literature will not only improve their organizations, but make them more effective leaders and increase their professional opportunities down the road.

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