Nonprofits can learn from For-Profits

Someone I follow on Twitter is Michael Rosen who shares great insights into charity, philanthropy and non-profits in general.

His recent post “4 Valuable Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from For-profits” – is one a real gem and I’m sure you’ll gain from reading it.

I believe that the nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from one another. Over the past several months, I’ve had some experiences that have confirmed this belief. I’d like to share two negative and two positive encounters I’ve had with the for-profit sector and reveal the lessons I learned that can help any nonprofit organization.

Under promise, and over deliver.
I ordered a roast-beef sandwich to go from Au Bon Pain. While I’m not a frequent Au Bon Pain customer, I’ve been one for many, many years. I was looking forward to my sandwich. When I got home, I unwrapped my lunch, and took a big bite. Something wasn’t right. I spit out the bite. There was a piece of paper. I opened my sandwich and found a sheet of deli paper!

Ok, if you make thousands of sandwiches, you’re bound to a make a mistake sooner or later. However, rather than just let the incident slide completely, I thought Au Bon Pain should know about the situation. I thought they might have a new sandwich guy who might benefit from some additional training. So, I called the “800” number on my receipt.

I was not looking for anything. I just wanted to inform the store about the incident so management could be aware and take any action they deemed appropriate.

Read in full here

Nonprofit Duplications

We already know that there’s masses of charities and non-profits in the community, no matter where you are, you’ll come across a non-profit of some description doing something close to your heart. 

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of non-profit organisations in the OECD; we have something like 30,000 registered charities, that’s a staggering number for a country of our size. 

What makes things challenging for donors is that there are a number of very similar named organisations doing very similar work. 

When it comes to charities and non-profits it’s difficult enough for donors to filter through messages asking for support and ‘selecting’ who they will support, but when there’s a number doing very similar activities it makes it even harder for them to make a decision. 

Wouldn’t it make sense for some of these ‘duplicated’ organisations to join forces? Surely, they’d be able to consolidate costs, be able to deliver more services and of course be able to potentially secure greater funding than they might currently be as individual competing organisations. 

Sure there can be difficulties in merging, egos will come into play, members may not want to vote for change – but is it the organisations ‘right’ to stand in the way of those they’re established to assist? 

Take a look at Merger Allergies – Redundant Associations Refuse to Wed – even though the majority of both organisations voted to support a merger, the numbers required were not there to pass the ‘resolution’. 

What’s happening in your area? Are you seeing duplication of services and those providing the services struggling to gain the support the need? 

As donors we perhaps owe it to those being served by the organisation to ask questions about the apparent duplication of services and ask why they’re not negotiating some form of merger with the other organisation/s.

It would be good to get some indication of what you’re seeing in your area; for example here in New Zealand I’ve seen up to three organisations providing help and assistance to youth with autism. There’s also a number working in the area of breast cancer (research, education and support), would it make sense for them to have a ‘round table’ and look at how they could possibly work better as one?

Can we continue to have so many organisation competing? I’d say no, we as supporters can’t and the sector as a whole can’t it’s duplicating while at the same time possibly diluting effectiveness.