If you lead a nonprofit, you already succeed at a harder job than your friend Susan who directs a forprofit company (ABC Motors) of similar size! You may notice that you have unique pressures that Susan does not face at ABC Motors. She seems to have more cash and less regulation while you try to have real impact with less cash and more regulation. Many nonprofit leaders experience unique frustration, disillusionment and loneliness in their work.
Here are ten
ways in which your nonprofit is different and harder to direct than ABC Motors.
Nonprofits serve the 5% of the
market that forprofits have abandoned
The USA has
a $21 trillion market economy. It is very efficient for most of the nation. Unfortunately,
a market economy fails for about 5% of the total activity in areas where no one
can figure out how to make money. Housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, and
other good services are failures of a market economy. The market answer to
needed but unprofitable activity is to give the problem to Nonprofit Leaders! Nonprofits
make up a unique 5% of the American economy (about 1 trillion dollars) where
everyone else has already failed..
More dependent on government
contracts so revenue does not flow to surplus
sources of revenue for nonprofits are government, fee for service, gifts and
grants. Government contracts are the largest source of nonprofit growth. Most
nonprofit leaders struggle with stipulations of government contracts. These
often promote equal access over equal results and do not fully express the
mission of the nonprofit. Government money is virtually required for growth in
any nonprofit over $5 million revenue. There is also no reward (surplus) for
excellence or efficiency in a contract.
commonly use product pricing or fee for service and build in a robust profit
target or turnover. Surplus profits from sales can be used without any
restriction. Forprofit contracts with government may have rewards for
performance. Forprofits may have more capacity for government grants that
require strategic and technological innovation. These grants are generous
compared to performance grants that nonprofits typically accept. Many nonprofit
contracts are where government feels confident of performance expected and
wants a highly regulated bargain.
Limited access to debt financing for
forprofit corporations have fixed assets of Property, Plant, and Equipment (PPE).
These can be mortgaged or serve as security for a loan for growth. Small
forprofits are often required to use personal funds or assets as security for
loans. They are willing to do this because they own the company and would never
leave the company while still responsible for its debt. Larger forprofits can
issue bonds which allow them access to cash while retaining ownership.
expensive to issue and 75% of all nonprofits are less than a $1 million in
revenue and far too small to afford the cost of the bond issue. Nonprofit
corporations can’t write off the interest paid on bonds as a tax deduction and
reduce the cost of the issue (in contrast to forprofits).
Limited access to equity markets for
and programs require energy – usually cash is required. Forprofit corporations
can sell shares based on their past history and future plans. Startups look for
angel investors with the same idea of potential future profits to be shared.
Nonprofits cannot distribute the surplus from financially successful activities
so they do not attract investors.
Revenue ceilings typically much less
easy access to equity and debt markets, very few nonprofits have grown past $50
million in revenue. Since 1980, less than 50 nonprofits in the USA have increased
beyond that level of activity. In addition, retained earnings (another source
of growth) tend to grow slowly for nonprofits because government contracts
often are performed at a deficit.
Agency problem in that clients who
receive services often are not the funders
forprofit companies are paid by those people who receive the goods or services.
Nonprofit financing from charity and government involves double stakeholders –
the funding source and the client who receives the services. The workload is
double for the nonprofit leader. They must educate the funder on what services
are meaningful and also hear the client need and respond appropriately.
Hard to have 20 year focus based
simply on social impact
business has a 20 year focus on the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). This makes
sense because the owner is accumulating wealth along the way. The path to
wealth for many people has been to develop a business, work with passion and
long hours and reap a generous reward.
leadership is inspired by mission. The few nonprofits that continue on a long
term strategy to succeed pay a leadership team generously. In a study of 990s
for nonprofit factors for failure and success, agencies which paid 4 or more
leaders $100,000 or above tended to retain leadership and stay on course. Many
nonprofit boards undervalue the competence of a long-term leadership team.
Boards of directors are present from
Directors are one more management task. Beverly Behan writes that the real
management of the Board is with the CEO and less should be expected of the
Board Chair. Nonprofit leaders will know this challenge immediately because
board formation happens before or in the first days of nonprofit existence. Many
nonprofit leaders are foiled completely or weighed down by operating boards who
enjoy the nonprofit as a hobby and diversion from their forprofit jobs.
are usually started by an owner or by partners. New forms of financing are
usually required for growth after revenue tops $100 million. Shares are offered
and a board is formed well after the foundation values, and strategic plan are
Nonprofit leaders are paid less to
lead agencies of similar size to forprofits
Who are the
best paid nonprofit leaders? Usually, presidents of universities and leaders of
medical enterprises are paid salaries of which the rest of us can only dream. Those
salaries are priced high in place of stock options which cannot be offered to a
college president for excellent performance.
At the more
normal level of nonprofit leadership, we are never going to be reimbursed fully
for the knowledge, wisdom, and networks that we possess. When there is a
turnover in the nonprofit C suite, there are less applicants who are highly
qualified by experience and connected in networks as the replacement. The lower
compensation does change the pool of available leadership.
Nonprofit fund raising behavior is
constrained by community values
Let’s assume that our nonprofit needs $10 million dollars for a life saving vaccination program. In this example, we have two choices, Choice one – we can hire a fund raiser who will charge $20 million in fees and produce the $10 million that we need in 3 months and save 1,000 lives from premature death. Choice two – we can have some private receptions and raise $2.2 million per year for five years at a cost of $1 million total (a total net income of $10 million). Which will your board choose?
nonprofits and most media would opt for the ‘reasonable’ fund raising costs of
10% and react in horror to fund raising costs of 66%. A forprofit perspective
would immediately allow the higher costs because the total raised is the same
and the 1,000 lives are saved. Some nonprofit ‘best practices’ are unique to
disadvantages, one might ask why anyone wants to lead a nonprofit! There are
unique opportunities available through the nonprofit structure.
Nonprofits support justice, compassion, & the creative spirit of humanity.
companies are discovering the need for values oriented behavior but values find
their truest home in the nonprofit world. If nonprofits did not exist, would
government, religion, business or military fill the need? Nonprofits add to the
social good when other forces fail.
Service agencies require little capital to begin
salons and flea markets, nonprofits don’t require much cash to start. While
many articles detail the fragility of nonprofits, they are like a rosebush.
Many of the flowers will die quickly but a few will thrive.
Nonprofits are more likely to get gifts and foundation grants
make one-time contributions to a forprofit toy drive or other visible act of
compassion, but nonprofits understand the human need to give as well as receive.
They are a natural home for gifts and grants.
Difficulty of leadership is not a
way to measure value
article is to help nonprofit leaders understand that they are stronger than
they may imagine. It is a very noble cause to lead a nonprofit even though
nonprofit leaders need to be smarter and better than their forprofit peers.
come from social service or teaching and now you want to make a real impact
with your leadership and legacy? It is very possible to do and many nonprofits
are changing lives in every community.
The best way to appreciate and strengthen your leadership is a commitment to lifetime learning. Scaling Up and the Four Decisions are one planning system that equips you to spend less time in the nonprofit problems and more time on the nonprofit results. Choose some planning system and build your skills continuously so that you feel less stress and more satisfaction for all you are giving to the human community.
And contact me Ronald.Tompkins@TAConsulting.live for a partner in planning.
I just finished the Trillion Dollar Coach. It’s wisdom gathered about the life of Bill Campbell who coached Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) and others.
The most challenging idea is that the CEO should drive near term actions of the Board and remove members who don’t add value.
His idea is that the CEO is the one person who vitally needs the right people on the Board in order for success. Although Bill was working with boards who paid board members, the compensation didn’t often pay for the steering work needed when someone needed to be in a different car.
While each board is unique, all board members need accountability. I recommend an outside appraisal of the board and board members every three years. Adding a driver’s role for the CEO to set the agenda and recruit board members for needed roles on the board may shift your nonprofit into high gear!.
Leaders get lost in a fog of numbers when they only need 7 Key Financials to make decisions.
I hope that you can join me at OpCon, June 13th, where I will be on a panel “What Nonprofits Need to Know About Nonprofit Accounting and Finance”. If you come with a CPA, bring aspirin as they recover from an encounter with a Management Accountant. If you’re a CEO, bring champagne to celebrate as you learn about 7 numbers that actually help you manage your agency.
In my book “Doing Bad at Doing Good”, I discover that the best nonprofits have an Operations Budget model that only requires 7 key financials. I’ll have copies of that available for attendees!
You are days away from an unusual Nonprofit resource. Mingle with Forprofit companies and learn growth secrets. You know how to offer your service with excellence. the ScalinUp Summit in Atlanta May 21-23 will make your work sustainable (and you’ll sleep better!)
Verne Harnish collects thought leaders twice a year to help businesses and nonprofits who want to grow. Scaling Up philosophy is that to 10X your business, you have to 10X your people. And to 10X your people, you have to 10X yourself. Summits are two days of nonstop quality ideas – like getting a drink from a high-pressure hose. One company brings along a secretary just to take 25 pages of notes to review afterward.
Scaling Up Summits and Coaching are an
investment of time and money with the promise that your nonprofit will get
tools to grow.
There is also a cheap approach
to the firehose if you’re not sure. Buy the books now that Summit speakers have
written and you’ll be convinced of the value.
Reading is a Cheap Way to Drink at the Firehose
I have started to read a book a
week to get ready.
Last week, I read a book from
one of the Summit speakers who will be in Atlanta in May. Mariya Yao wrote
‘Applied Artificial Intelligence – A Handbook for Business Leaders.’ It’s an
easy read and gets leaders up to speed on using Artificial Intelligence in your
nonprofit. (Spoiler Alert – you are already using weak artificial intelligence,
so you have started!)
I’ve been scared of Artificial
Intelligence because it sounds expensive. It sounds like new software ($$$) and
new staff to understand the software ($$$) with me to raise the money ($$$$)
Mariya begins with the cheapest
of ideas -what do you want to know? Artificial intelligence starts with the
intelligence of leaders! Who knew? I actually brought managers together last
Thursday to ask that question. What a great session as people gave different
ideas as to why the school is so successful. I made a tool to guide our
discussion. Email me if you want to try something with your team and I’ll send
Join Me in Atlanta, Invest in Future
Join me in Atlanta after you
read a book and see what you’ll will get. Invite board members too. We’ll have
a late night session Tuesday night to meet and review the day. Text me before
you register because there is a nonprofit rate.
I stopped rolling pennies to take to the bank. I realized that I can only fill, tape, and address a roll of 50 cents every five minutes. My maximum profit is $6.00 per hour and it’s cheaper to use the machine at the grocery store!
Now the same process is happening at the school that I direct. 75% of the money that parents pay is with an app that we provide for their phone. The payment flows directly to the bank for the school and eliminates a physical deposit. The software automatically updates their account on student billing and also adds the revenue to the general ledger. Several tasks are reduced or eliminated.
Now the school is automating accounts payable for trusted vendors. And preparations are underway for triple entry bookkeeping with Blockchain to pay all vendors automatically. There will be no more audit sampling because every transaction will be proven with blockchain.
What does it mean for you as a leader? Accounting staff positions are changing steadily. Will anything be left? How should you arrange your projected Operations Budgets?
The Institute of Management Accountants just had the slide below in a presentation. It shows that nonprofits will still need an accountant who gives financial advice for management decisions. And your budget should include more money for the software that automates the transactions.
Are you leading a nonprofit and don’t feel prepared for the winds of change? Check with me because Cash and Execution Decisions are part of business coaching.