Its long been thought that non-profit and charitable organizations operate differently than businesses. After all, businesses are supposed to measure their success by their profits. If earning a profit is not your objective, why would you use business principles to guide operations?
Because business principles are about more than profit. They provide the tools to building a strong operation that:
- Knows what it does
- Does it well
- Consistently operates in a secure and stable manner
- Adjusts operations when they are not producing the desired results.
Business principles demand that operations produce a measurable outcome. In other words, all the activities and work done should result in something. In the case of a business, yes – that would be profit. For non-profits and charitable organizations, the outcomes could be fewer hungry people in a community, more newcomers with trauma supports and improved mental health, greater literacy rates…. The options, depending on the organization, are endless.
Staff and volunteers working for non-profit and charitable organizationsoften know the outcomes they produce. The challenge is that many do not define and measure these outcomes in a way that help them assess their operations to make the best use of their resources, the way a business would. Additionally, without good measurement of outcomes, the real impact cannot be well communicated to the community.
Non-profit and charitable organizations looking to increase their impact by adopting business principles can start with the following steps:
- Define your Mission – Mission is purpose. It’s asking the questions “WHY does my organization exist? WHY do people need me? Does it matter if we close our doors?” It is critical to understand WHY you are in operation, WHO you are serving, and WHY it matters.
- Define your Vision – What impact are you aiming to have on your community (or the world)? Take your Mission a step further and state how the world will improve because of your efforts.
- Set Measurable Goals – Setting goals is how you identify the milestones you need to achieve in order to fulfil your Mission, which gets you closer to creating the impact you want to have on the world (your Vision). Goals should be short, medium and long-term, and must be measurable. Try to assign numbers to track success. Just as businesses use numbers to track dollars earned or lost, non-profits and charities can track people helped, percentages of improvement in their well-being, decreased rates of poverty, illness, etc.
- Create a Plan – Strategic Plans, Business Plans, and Budgets – these outline HOW you will achieve your goals. They include assessment, strategy, processes, resources needed, timelines and who is involved. They provide the roadmap and clarity for everyone who has a role to play in achieving your Mission.
None of the above should be complicated. Simple, straightforward, and relevant are best!
Non-profit and charitable organizations are critical to our communities. Fueled by passion for the people and needs they serve, these organizations make all our lives better every day. Supporting these organizations to apply business principles for success helps ensure that they can continue their important work and life-changing impact!
Kimberly Lyall is a consultant and motivational speaker who has extensive experience helping non-profit organizationsachieve their goals. For more information: www.kimberlylyall.com .