Every day, the sector deals with other businesses and questions about the differences between the two. Vu Le, director of Rainier Valley Corps, discusses 10 things nonprofits would like businesses to know in his blog, Nonprofits With Balls, uses humor to shares practical counsel about the most frustrating aspects of nonprofit work. These top 10 pointers are drawn from Dear Business Community, Please Remember these 10 things about nonprofits.
1. Funding controls everything we do. Restricted funding is a challenge. We can recruit funders and donors, but may be limited to how the “profits” can actually be used.
2. Your administrative needs need to be “sexy” to merit funding. “No one wants to pay for unsexy admin things,” says Le. These can include marketing, human resource, and web design. Since funding is restricted, we try to stay away from spending money on these. We hire employees who are great multi-tasker and eliminate the fully-staffed departments you may find in businesses.
3. It’s not our fault funding is “unstable.” Yes, funding fluctuates month to month. It can become a challenge figuring out how we are going to pay for what.
4. Do better, work harder. “The better a job we do, the more cost we incur,” Le states, admitting “businesses” may find this nonprofit truth downright “weird.” This is why we may feel that working in nonprofit can be a catch-22. If an event or program we host is successful, than more people may attend later. This is great for our organization, but also uses more of the limited resources we have.
5. It’s about people, not numbers. We care about our community. We look at the members as people and not numbers. We are happy when we there are healthier citizens, increased literacy, and more art experience for children. We do not have the same framework as normal business sector.“Our community members are not economic units,” says Le.
6. Measuring success is difficult. It is a challenge to define success when working in a nonprofit. We don’t don’t look at “outcome” or “statistics” but success on an individual level. It’s not easy measuring how “not-hungry” the homeless client is since a nonprofit provided a meal.
7. Scaling our capacity to do more isn’t easy. When individuals, funders, and donors see what the nonprofit can accomplish, they wish for it to be bigger and even more effective the following year. We are constantly thinking of ways to involve more people and keeping our organization afloat, all while trying to keep what we already have. The very structure in which nonprofits must function is inhibiting. Le says, “Things can’t be “scaled” as easily as you think.”
8. If you want help, roll up your sleeves. We constantly get useful advice. We do appreciate all of it. “It can be frustrating when business leaders or consultants come in and provide a list of recommendations of things we should do,” Le observes. Who doesn’t have a dusty report of ideas for which no resources existed for implementation. We have time to listen, but limited time to make these recommendations a reality. Le throws it back to advice-givers: “If you want to help, take lead on a few of these things you recommend.”
9. Our hearts are in the work (to paraphrase Andrew Carnegie). Before taking our positions, we knew it was going to be a challenge. We knew it was unstable, low-paying, and high stress. Most of us work in nonprofit because we enjoy what we do. “We chose to do this work,” says Le.
10. Understand work in business isn’t the same as nonprofit work. “Just because you’re really successful in one area,” Le points out, “it doesn’t mean you are automatically great in another.” We meet so many individuals in the business sector who think that they know how to run a nonprofit or tell us how to improve our organization. We love meeting and getting to know volunteers, potential donors, and the community. However, how nonprofits run is often misunderstood, as is the lack of resources.
Nonprofit work can be rough, challenging, and stressful, but it is also the most rewarding. It is an experience unlike any other. Many of us working in nonprofits thrive on the variety of our jobs. The work features all aspects of a company, not just a single position.
Check out the “Hilarious Side Stories”in Le’s post. You will probably recognize some of these “nonprofiteers”. You may even recognize yourself, like the staffer who “dumpster dives” for office supplies.
About the Author: About the Author: James Zackal is a writer, music enthusiast, and Netflix addict. A graduate student at California University or Pennsylvania pursuing a Master of Business Administration, he is a writer at New Place Collaborations, LLC in Pittsburgh and a Marketing Assistant at Web Strategies in Winchester.