So where are those business principles when we need them?

People who are fond of asking why nonprofits don’t operate like businesses forget that businesses aren’t held to the same standards as nonprofits.  In a business, you throw 15 ideas up against the wall and if one of them sticks you think you’re having a pretty good year.  In a nonprofit, by contrast, every idea is supposed to prove out: that’s the meaning of those reams of evaluative data demanded by funders.  And if the idea doesn’t prove out, it’s not just the project that doesn’t get funded again–it’s the whole agency. 

What we really need is a recognition in the nonprofit arena that (to quote the great Leo McGarry) "There was a time in the life of everything that works when it didn’t work"–in other words, that innovation doesn’t just risk failure but absolutely demands it.  When nonprofits are free to fail they’re likely to be more daring, and ultimately more successful.

And then they really will be operating like businesses.


One Response to “So where are those business principles when we need them?”

  1. Gabi Says:

    Or rather…then they really would be operating like what they’re supposed to be… organizations who are focused on long-term solutions to difficult social issues!

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