We were asked a question recently and had to really think about the answer. What is the difference between a business and a non-profit? As we sat and pondered, others did as well, until someone spoke up. “Well, most non-profits are service oriented.” Another answered “You could have a service business such as massage therapy or a pet sitting service.” As people continued to think about the question, soon the answer came…nothing! Non-profits are a business; the only difference is you have to zero out the budget at the end of the year. The real question is why is it so difficult for nonprofit leaders to answer this question?
For many, their service is their product. They still need staff whether paid or volunteer; they need an income to provide services whether it is through sponsors, grants, state or federal funds similar to revenue generated through product purchases and they still have goals they need to accomplish. Then someone asked, “Why is it that these organizations do not run themselves or consider themselves as a business?” “Shouldn’t the leaders of these organizations think this way?” Your tax-exempt status shouldn’t separate you! The truth is some nonprofits don’t seem to follow a business model and as a result, suffer to stay afloat. Strategies associated with the business model seem to be a missing factor.
According to a 2016 article published in Forbes, “Half of Nonprofit are Setup to Fail.” The strongest organizational leaders know the importance of sales, marketing and strategic planning skills that can propel their business to the next level. You have a passion for your services; use stories to sell them, use marketing tactics to differentiate yourself and strategically set goals that will grow your organization. These tactics will separate your organization from others and allow you to get in front of those that will support you monetarily, physically or better yet verbally. There is nothing like good ol’ word of mouth marketing and nothing better than giving them something to talk about.