In this post, I talked about two ways businesses should act more like non-profits. Today, I want to talk to those of you in the non-profit world.
First of all, I love what you do. You’re helping, serving and making a difference. You’re focused on people and want to solve problems. You get into this because you were called or compelled to do something that truly matters.
But too many times, we can break fundamental business rules and still be successful. We think our passion and our mission trumps the rules of life.
This is rarely the case.
Those of us in the non-profit space still need to be good business people. We still have to lead, strategize and deal with financial issues. If we don’t do these things, we’ll go out of business and our passion will be left by the wayside.
If you want your non-profit to be successful, don’t abandon your passion for helping and just run a business. But add good business sense to your passion.
Here are three ways non-profit leaders should act like business people.
1. Invest in your education.
One of the favorite emails I’ve ever received came from a pastor who was responding to one of our coaching programs.
The program was called Giving Rocket and it’s designed to help pastors raise money throughout the year. Thousands of churches have increased regular giving by 10, 20 or even 40% using these tools. They really work and there’s a long track record.
The program costs $99 a month for 12 months.
This particular pastor apparently couldn’t stomach that high price so he sent me this email…
$99 a month!? I can’t afford that….send from my iPad
Ironic, isn’t it?
I laughed out loud on that one.
I’m not debating whether the program is expensive or not…that’s not the issue. The issue is worth and value. If a pastor isn’t willing to invest $99 a month into getting their entire church financially healthy, then we’re not going to be able to help.
It’s a broke mindset.
Sadly, a lot of non-profit leaders think like that. And it leads to a perpetual problem.
Yes, there are lots of dollars wasted on coaching and training. If you fall into that boat, you just picked the wrong coach or the training was no good.
As a non-profit leader, you must invest in your business. You must invest in yourself. Zero investment leads to zero improvement.
Walk Disney said, “I never know where I’m going to get my next great idea.” He knew great ideas can come from anywhere. That’s why you need to be in learning environment and have different experiences.
Stop trying to “pick the brain” of some other struggling but passionate philanthropist. Pay for coaching. Invest in education – both for yourself and your team.
2. Invest in your business.
Not only should you invest in yourself, you should invest in your business.
This means you’ve got to view your cause as a real business, not just a side project or an unfunded passion. Don’t let the broke mindset lead you to search for the cheapest alternative.
The cheapest is rarely the best.
Listen to this TED talk from Ted Palotta about investing in fundraising dollars. It’s one of the most brilliant perspectives on raising capital, but the principles he shares go beyond fundraising.
If you want your non profit to make a huge difference, you need to invest in it like a business.
One of the things we tell churches is to send quarterly contribution statements and vision-filled communication to their donors. Most churches only do this once a year, because that’s what the government says.
We know that if you appreciate and communicate with your donors, they will be more inspired to keep participating. Investing in this segment of people is always worth it.
But it’s amazing how few churches do this, because they don’t see immediate return or don’t want to pay for the cost of postage. It’s short term thinking and it hurts over the long term.
3. Pay people what they are worth.
One of my first real jobs out of grad school was at a local church. I was hired to oversee the student program and the educational system at the church.
I was newly married and we didn’t have kids. I made a really low salary, but everything was fine because I was doing important and meaningful work.
When my wife got pregnant, I realized the math wouldn’t work. I went to my boss to ask for a raise.
“It was always my job to get you up to what a school teacher make, but it’s gonna take several years,” he told me.
At that point, I knew I couldn’t live on passion alone. If it would take years to get up to the level of one of the most underpaid positions in America (teachers should all make six figures, but that’s another blog post), I was in trouble.
I ended up leaving that job.
If you want to invest in your business and build something that can help a ton of people, you’ve got to recruit good people.
It’s hard to attract top talent with bottom barrel pay.
Yes, there are people who will take less money to do something that matters. Yes, there’s more to job satisfaction than a pay scale. But passion for the cause isn’t an excuse to rob people of what they are worth.
Those are three ways I believe non-profits should act more like for-profit businesses. What would you add to this list?