Working with Not for Profits

I must first preface this by stating that no two companies whether For Profit or Not For Profit operate exactly the same. Much depends on the individuals in key leadership positions as well as the makeup and operation of their respective Boards of Directors.

Many confuse “Not-for-Profit” and “Nonprofit” and while legal statutes may claim that they are one and the same, the Internal Revenue Service has two different definitions. According to the IRS, a “Not-for-Profit” is a group that refers specific activity while “Nonprofit” is an organization established for purposes other than turning a profit. This does not necessarily mean charitable, but refers to any organization that does not intend to turn a profit. This tern usually is used for clubs and civic organizations.

As a consultant your role doesn’t change very much. We are engaged to solve a specific problem, to manage or facilitate projects, to provide advice and sometimes to teach from our experiences. Many of the same processes we use can be brought over from the For Profit world and work seamlessly in the Not-for-Profit sector. Quite often it is how those processes are performed that may be different.

The amount of influence at the Board level in the Not-for-Profit is usually far greater than in the For Profit. Not-for-Profit Board members typically are more directly involved in decisions at more detail in the Not-For-Profit’s. Board Members tend to have more emotional commitment to the cause that they are associated with. Quite often they are also large financial contributors to the organization. Very often the passion of the Board Members has a trickle-down effect directly to the employee level.

Cost quite often becomes the overriding factor in the decision-making process for the Not-for-Profit. A  Not-for-Profit does not consider financial “payoff, or return” as the catalyst the way a For Profit company would. Not-for-Profit funding typically has been hard to come by in the form of grants and donations, boards tend to think long and hard before using those funds where there may be any amount of risk involved. Dollars are not often spent unless they can be tied directly back to the mission and vision of the organization.

So what does all this mean when dealing with a Not-for-Profit?

–        Projects will sometimes move at the speed of light and at other times take 20%-40% longer. Be flexible.

–        Projects may be put on hold while another task takes priority.

–        Relationships are extremely important in any arena. This is also true in the Not-for Profit world.

–        Prove your value as a member of their team with their best interests in mind they will keep calling you back.

–        Know the Mission and Vision of the organization so that you can best serve their needs and desires.

–        Be prepared to find an alternate way of providing the same result for less money

I pride myself on solving the client’s problem within the confines of their culture, and by understanding what drives them I can incorporate my personal values to help them achieve their mission and vision.