Some days it seems as if every adult in business or government believes he or she has good advice on how to run a nonprofit. One nonprofit executive director commented, “When I was in the corporate sector and on nonprofit boards, I would say things like, ‘Focus on the mission’ and ‘what are the metrics.’ Now that I’m at a nonprofit, I realize how obnoxious I was.”
Don’t forget that many corporate “best practices” were born in the nonprofit sector: the corporation itself (the first corporations were all community-minded, non-ownership, not-for-profit organizations), the mission statement (the word “mission” should be a clue), participatory decision-making, and improving organizational performance through diversity. Many of the reforms mandated by Sarbanes Oxley in the wake of Enron and other corporate scandals were already standard practice in the nonprofit sector: a majority of non-staff on the board, the review of CEO compensation by the board, and the CFO not serving on the board’s Finance Committee.
We in community nonprofits are so bombarded with advice and criticism that we can forget the powerful force for innovation that we are . . . not just in social change but in management practice. The next time you run into someone from GM, from Toyota, from an airline or a bank, think about advising them to “stay nimble” or to “be as efficient as a nonprofit.” On second thought, say it to yourself, and smile.
* Thank you to the hundreds of you who responded to our survey on banking services for nonprofits . . . there seems to be a lot of pain out there. We are just crazy enough to be exploring, along with our partners at the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance Group, the possibility of a financial institution that will allow nonprofits not only to get access to the various kinds of credit they need, but to keep their money in the nonprofit sector (rather than on Wall Street). Stay tuned to Blue Avocado for updates (warning: not going to happen overnight).
* Don’t forget to submit your nominations for bad foundations and bad press: the Just Awards will be announced in April: Most Narcissistic Behavior by a Foundation, and Most Abominable Coverage of the Nonprofit Sector by a newspaper, magazine, website, or other media outlet.
* Check out this issue’s special 3-day sale on Exceed Basic fundraising software — for Blue Avocado readers only (it’s over March 19!). Not to mention a handbook for Board Treasurers, a national (US) review of attacks on the nonprofit tax exemption, and a provocative Board Cafe column on “who’s responsible.” Plus some fun nonprofit jargon.
And don’t forget what Peter Drucker said: “In the last 100 years, every important idea for social change has come from the nonprofit sector.” — Jan Masaoka