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Nonprofits: Shifting to a Business Mindset

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Gone are the days when charities were expected to stand with their heads down, and their hands out. The time has come to dismiss the idea that it is a battle of Mission vs. Money. Nonprofits can generate revenue, can have a living wage paid complement of driven and expert staff, and fulfill their mission at the same time! Deep down we all know this, we need to move past the perceived stigma that nonprofits can’t, or they shouldn’t operate like businesses.


Generating revenue and implementing a business approach to developing and leading a charitable organization will position the organization for growth, stability and sustainability. Ultimately, deepening the impact in the community.


It’s super competitive out there in the fundraising and grant funding sectors! Many worthy organizations are vying for dollars from the same wells, and in times of economic recession donors and granting structures are more cautious in their giving. Nonprofits already operate like businesses, with policies and procedures, boards overseeing their activities, and staff delivering the services. The difference being, charities don’t make a profit, and it is expected that they function in the most skeletal, limited expense generating way. It’s also competitive in the area of human resources. Candidates are needing better wages and compensation packages, and will move to organizations that offer opportunities for personal growth and stability.  


Businesses that don’t invest in marketing, human resources, strategic and business planning and all other key capacity-building tasks needed for growth and prosperity, won’t thrive. Neither will nonprofit organizations, and when charities don’t thrive, quite often the most vulnerable people in their communities also don’t thrive. 


What does shifting into a business mindset really mean? Simply put, focusing your growth in the same way a business does:

  • Develop and operationalize annual and multi-year strategic and business plans
  • Human resources planning, hiring and succession planning
  • Develop mission-aligned revenue streams
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures
  • Donors are Customers – treat them as such and manage the relationship well, implement an effective donor retention strategy that you review annually and adjust as needed
  • Develop an annual communications plan – marketing, social media and promotions
  • Attract board members who bring varying styles and experience levels in business acumen

With a business mindset, and continued effort in grant applications, donor support growth, and creating sponsorship opportunities, nonprofits can thrive in this competitive market. It comes down to finding the right balance, and investing in growth-building resources for the future benefit of the people they serve, and the community.


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