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What Can Businesses Learn From Nonprofits? PLENTY.

There is an enduring myth in the public that nonprofits are like second-class citizens. The for-profit business sector has all the answers, and charities should learn from them. While it’s true there are definite skills that organizations serving society can learn from the business community, there are also ways of doing things that businesses can learn from nonprofits.


Most charitable organizations live and breathe their mission.

Nonprofits incorporate their mission into much of what they do and present it to their audiences internally and externally. Focusing and routinely communicating their mission enables nonprofit organizations to consistently convey their work to their supporters. This, in turn, helps build the brand, attract supporters and obtain resources, including financial, to help them continue their work.


In order for nonprofits to execute their mission, they need money. The key way for them to obtain money is to develop productive and ongoing working relationships with donors. Nonprofits don’t have the financial luxury to have their supporters maintain only a once a year or cursory relationship with them. Therefore, charitable organizations are always looking for ways to keep in touch with donors and maintain an ongoing emotional connection with them that will lead to continued and repeated support.


Nonprofits seldom (never) have enough resources. Typically, the more money and resources they obtain, they turn around and work to expand and grow their work to scale — but the need is usually much greater than what the organization can offer to eradicate a societal issue. So, there is always more to get done. That said, most nonprofits contend with small budgets and do incredible work with limited money. They innovate ways to accomplish their objectives with limited money and staff.


Particularly in today’s world, businesses have increasingly gotten into the habit of looking almost exclusively at short-term profits. However, the long term is important. Nonprofits tend to look at building sustainability in the long term. In order to accomplish their mission, they are aware of having to raise their annual monetary goal. However, at a strategic level, nonprofits are equally concerned and driving toward ensuring their long-term sustainability.


Most people don’t enter the nonprofit sector to make big money. In fact, nonprofit professionals are paid up to 25 percent less than their for-profit counterparts. Nonprofits are aware of this fact, and they work to provide their employees with a sense of team and purpose. They seek to provide their staffs with other incentives and motivators to keep them engaged and working hard to accomplish organizational goals and objectives.

It is a fact that around the world, people are demanding companies and businesses act in a more socially responsible manner and not simply pay it lip service. In response, companies are incorporating this awareness into their business models, and customers who are purchasing their goods and services versus their competitors are rewarding them.

If the for-profit sector wants to be even more successful at getting people to notice their commitment to social responsibility, they should look to their nonprofit peers, who have been doing this far longer than them.