Nonprofit leaders have always needed to be innovative in their approaches. From raising funds to delivering programs, being nimble and creative is a given.
The pandemic only exacerbated these realities.
We often equate nonprofit founders with being entrepreneurial, but there’s more to it than that. Nonprofit leaders at all levels take risks and find solutions to unmet needs and problems that exist.
If we look at the dictionary definition of “entrepreneurial,” it includes the reward of profit: “characterized by the taking of financial risks in the hope of profit; enterprising.”
In the nonprofit sector, we might first think of social enterprise as a profit-making entity. The thrift stores of Goodwill and the Furniture Bank, or the waterpark of the Columbus Zoo, are some of the most visible examples.
But there are other ways of being entrepreneurial, including:
- Every capital campaign is by design, risk. Whether it’s the purchase or renovation of a building, the organization is extending its capacity to raise extraordinary levels of capital. Leaders also must sustain an increased operating budget once the campaign is complete.
- Shared service is about cost savings but it’s also about generating revenue. We have seen several of our clients build new partnerships to leverage their strengths. For instance, one organization that provides meals to the children in their care now also prepares and delivers meals to partner nonprofits. The result is that more children have access to healthy food and both organizations have stronger financial bottom lines.
- Expanding into new markets is certainly entrepreneurial. While many nonprofits traditionally have focused on city neighborhoods where there may be large concentrations of people to be served, we are seeing clients look beyond the expected. One client regularly analyzes data and trends throughout the entire region, and as a result, has created programs in “deserts,” some of which are in suburban areas.
- Staffing in this economy is a tremendous risk. Designing new ways to attract and retain talent was always something that nonprofit CEOs had to do because the compensation package is often not as competitive. Today, we are seeing new benefit offerings, including meals and even one organization exploring a partnership with a housing authority to give low-income earners the chance to secure a voucher.
Entrepreneurs love to solve problems and take risks. Nonprofit leaders do, too. The difference can be summed up as the benefits the community reaps rather than one person’s financial gain.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO