Previously, I shared my thoughts about nonprofits in a presentation entitled,
Profiting by Investing in Nonprofits.
Perhaps it is an appropriate time to again share some thoughts about nonprofit organizations. For we as a club are part of a nonprofit self-development organization called Toastmasters International. And as a club we have been fortunate to hold our meetings in the facilities of a nonprofit organization called The American Red Cross.
I would like briefly review the points of that presentation and then add some comments.
Let's begin with a review.
Corporate investing in nonprofits can be a powerful and enriching experience. It fuels the nonprofit with the byproduct of the corporation: cash. It generates new business for both the corporation and the nonprofit.It builds trust quickly-- perhaps even quicker than by selling reliable products backed by quality and excellent service alone.And in making the decision to invest Ė it serves as a quiet reminder that serving others is the highest calling of mankind.To make it work, you must:
- Consider the relevance of your investment. Otherwise, you look like youíre trying to buy customers.
- Fully focus on the nonprofit. Highlight and honor them, not yourself.
- Use the low-key promotional approach, since it is the strongest.
With the understanding of investing in nonprofits, let's proceed with some new thoughts.
organization, whether for-profit or non-profit, has within it hidden
resources. Underutilized resources. This includes human resources:
people. Without people, the organization obviously wonít run. Yet, I
think that often, nonprofit leaders don't challenge their employees
enough to exhibit their unused talents, skills, and gifts. Sometimes
this is because the organization is filled with fear: fear of making a
decision-making mistake; or fear of offering to contribute more when
seeing others shut down so quickly.
I recall, at nonprofits I was at, where I offered to contribute more.
In one case, I had just successfully created a program that made
significant inroads into the corporate community by creating
contributions and goodwill. I mentioned that my greater talent would be
to further develop those inroads by working to obtain large corporate
donations and event sponsorships. Since I would be fully accountable for
the results, that is, no results, no compensation, and had already shown
I could perform, there was little risk, if any. I was shut down with a
forced smile and a definite no to the possibility of presenting my case.
Any question why I stopped consulting for them?
I recall another nonprofit where I was in their development
department. Development departments are the nonprofit equivalent of
business development departments. I reported to the director of
development, and mentioned upon numerous occasions my extensive
background in marketing and sales, my entrepreneurial experience, as
well as having successfully set up a corporate program for a nonprofit.
No, Bill, we need you here to do low-level clerical work. That, in the
director's opinion, was the best deployment of departmental human
resources. Any question why I left?
I recall another nonprofit where I had performed strictly volunteer work. I called them and introduced myself, mentioned I would love to contribute my time, and had an appointment to meet with them. As is usually is the case, you meet with a volunteer coordinator, who is happy to have any able-bodied person come on down. I offered to help anywhere it was needed the most, which was in sorting incoming contributions of food. So, I took my place alongside mentally challenged individuals sorting the incoming contributions to pass basic job training. Due to my usual visible schmoozing style, I got to talk about some of the management. I provided them with information on my background in sales and marketing for my businesses, and offered several times to provide some free ways they could streamline their direct marketing campaigns to better use their precious financial and volunteer resources. With a no and a smile, I found my answer.
Maybe Iím just venting. And what Iím pointing out is not unique to nonprofits. But since nonprofits are limited in how they can raise funds, that is, they're limited in offering products and services for a markup profit, the case may be more relevant.
So what can we do? Nonprofit leaders must look at all their resources, especially their human resources, and ask themselves in a mantra, How Can We Better Utilize These Resources? And teach their teams to do so. And not just the executive team. But their teams in turn. So that everyone in the organization is positively challenged to bring forth more to the table each day, rather than doing the minimum necessary. So that volunteers who give of themselves give so they in turn are challenged. And not just the volunteers who sit on the Board and put themselves at risk by serving as a director. But the guy or the gal who comes in off the street.
Simple? Maybe. Easy? Maybe not. Who said leadership was supposed to be easy?
My challenge to you is simply this. To those who lead nonprofits: To take up this challenge and to share it with other nonprofit leaders. To those who lead for-profits: To do the same. And to those of you who give of your time by volunteering at nonprofits, or for career and financial reasons at a for-profit: To challenge those to utilize you and your talents, skills, and gifts at a higher level. Itís a win-win.