The Integration of Business and Non-profit Principles

When I began my career in non-profit work several decades ago, I sometimes got feedback that our work was somehow “soft,” and unbusiness-like.  To some extent this was true, but in the past twenty years much has changed. Today we understand that nonprofits are businesses—mission driven businesses—and we have become much more effective and better stewards of community resources as we implement for-profit approaches to management and service delivery.

Specifically, studying for-profit business principles has resulted in more effective strategies for data collection, analysis and course correction. Understanding staffing needs through a productivity lens has taught us new approaches to talent acquisition.  Effectively monitoring market trends has led us to new ways of thinking about effective risk management. We’ve learned lessons in leadership and ways to practice transparency with our key stakeholders.

For us, mission is the driver for strategy and structure, and is the case for action and execution.  As social innovators, we are consistently looking at society’s biggest challenges and finding precise interventions. We are at the forefront of understanding the ways that political, social, and economic trends will affect those we serve.

With mission and the betterment of society as the centerpiece for leveraging business principles of market analysis, driven decision-making, rapid course-correction, and talent acquisition, non-profits are making relevant, sustainable impact.

I am curious: what lessons do you use in your everyday work that you learned from business?

As always, I welcome your comments.