NonProfits rarely see the need to find a business partner.
At best, they find a favorite auditor, attorney or supply vendor and
essentially develop no-bid contracts with their favorites. Stuart Mendel and
Jeffrey Brudney found that nonprofit and business partnerships were only 10% of
Partnerships mean that both partners get something that they
want from the relationship. Nonprofit CEOs are nervous about relationships that
might make a business – more profitable. Actually, every time that you pay your
auditor, I assume that they get richer! So there is nothing illegal or
unethical about partnership with business.
What are bad partnerships with Business?
Brand Risk – The biggest risk is Brand risk. If you
choose to partner with businesses that don’t match your values, mission, or values
of your clients, you can seriously damage your brand. Partnerships with
business should hire a coach to help you review partner proposals with your
leadership team, board, and stakeholders before you proceed. For example, the
company in New York that has done audits for Mr. Trump also pushes aggressively
in the nonprofit space locally. Would it affect your nonprofit brand if you
chose the same auditor? What questions would you raise before you made the
decision? Your coach can help.
Kentucky Fried Chicken partnered to give money for breast
cancer cure. They printed a month of pink buckets for chicken. Media quickly
seized on the links between calories, obesity and breast cancer. There was
nothing unethical with the business relationship but the nonprofit failed to
consider key implications of their brand. Proceed slowly and use a coach!
Process Risk – A second risk is process risk. The
processes and corporate cultures of all companies are far different. When any
two groups develop a partnership, there needs to be a written charter that the
coach helps you to carefully spell out details
Both Brand Risk and Process Risk can be managed. Leaders
lean into the danger, use a coach, and do risk management! You can partner with
What’s a good reason to partner with Business? Mendel and
Brudner list four reasons and I add two more!
Your nonprofit needs money – Pampers
diapers and UNICEF were partners for a long time and UNICEF got funding for its
mission. Pampers added to its brand strength by being interested in children. Find
a business owner who really likes your mission.
Your nonprofit helps a Business that helps
your clients – A family doctor has a practice locally that easily accepts
cash and his prices are low. Any nonprofit that helps low income families would
be helping their clients by referring them to the doctor if there are not other
Your nonprofit needs more expertise – A
local construction company is willing to partner with your nonprofit with
internships. You have a training program for people released from prison but no
expertise in introducing your best graduates to the job market. The
construction company gets a supply of semi skilled workers that come there with
Both you and the Business want market share –
You realize that a local bakery attracts young parents whose children would be
eligible for your school. You already have 200 parents who don’t go to that
bakery. If both companies give discounts to each other’s customers for a month,
then both groups of parents are now potentially interested in both companies.
Sumo Number Four – Bernie Brenner suggests
that you find a partner who is 10x bigger than you and partner with them. For
example, a real estate developer suddenly gets bad press about rodent
infestation. They need a brand partner who will help them clean their brand. They
donate money to your nonprofit and rebrand as the safe rental for families. This
partnership is the most risky for the nonprofit but potentially the most
More Respect Than Government – Government
partnerships are often take it or leave it contracts. They add conditions
without reflecting on the costs of compliance. They assume that they are the
head in the partnership and your nonprofit is the hands and feet. Business partners
can be different, You can search until you find the right business to partner
but you can’t easily choose another government to partner if you don’t like the
Conclusion: Partnerships are critical in the growth
of nonprofits and often welcomed by business. You will be treated as a co-equal
partner by the right Business. Remember:
This is not a plan for next week – it’s in your
Giving Tuesday may provide gifts for your nonprofit, but
most of us need more than one Giving Tuesday! Financing your nonprofit programs
through charitable giving is a cliff hanger because gifts come and go quickly.
You probably have discovered that.
I just analyzed the 990’s of a large, wonderful nonprofit in
New York City.
BUT I WAS SHOCKED
Their gifts dropped from $120 million to $70 million in one
year. I couldn’t believe it. I have a friend that knows them and she said that
gifts from hedge funds really have been their major source of funding. In bad
years, the hedge fund gifts go away.
For Giving Tuesday, I’m giving two hours of coaching in December to five nonprofit leadership teams. APPLY HERE I’ll review your 990’s, answer questions, and share a couple of tools as appropriate. Good advice never disappears or loses value!
I’m getting more requests than I can honor but its free to
And I truly hope your finances get a major boost on Giving Tuesday
Ronald Dale Tompkins
Certified NonProfit Teams Coach
Many nonprofit leaders focus on the problems of their organizations. And yes, we all have problems!
Scaling Up framework focuses on building capabilities. It will change your mood and the mood of the staff team. It leads to the Deep Work that Cal Newport writes about. It brings happiness to doing good things.
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!)
A new survey of 2,100 people has found that only 19% of Americans really trust nonprofits and religious groups. The best news that we can take from this report is that they don’t distrust us as much as they distrust other companies and government.
We live in an age of Fake News. We have Wikileaks, Trump, and the Russians pushing out Fake News and accusing mainstream media and others of Fake News. Our nation has caught the Fake News Flu and is now vaccinated against most institutions.
Rusty Shelton, author of Authority Marketing says that people trust people more than institutions. We tend to buy from stores where we know someone. We live in an atmosphere of high suspicion.
There is more need than ever for Strategic Planning. There are 1.5 million nonprofits in the USA. Many are engaged in critical and worthwhile services. With planning, Fake News Flu is just another challenge that can be overcome. If I can help, email me at Ronald.Tompkins@TAConsulting.live to get a conversation started.
PS. Here’s the link to the entire report. https://www.give.org/docs/default-source/donor-trust-library/give-org-donor-trust-report.pdf
Are you turning around a difficult situation? It’s lonely. That’s why we all gather twice a year who are gathered in this business to hear stories of success and to share our struggles.
It’s not an easy event because so many thought leaders are onstage with great ideas. Tom Peters was a speaker in May. You will end up tired and with a new sense of partners in the determination to lead your company to success!
The Fall ScaleUp Summit in Denver (16-17 October, 2018) is nearing capacity, with 800+ business leaders and 12 bestselling business authors gathering together to focus on high-growth strategies. Register now to reserve your space — preferred seating available for teams of three or more.
Twice a year, I gather with nonprofit leaders who want to dream of greater mission. Can you invest two days on possibilities instead of problems? Check past summits with Verne Harnish online to see the great value! Text me to register.
No gossip column on 990s can omit the juicy topic of what we’re all getting paid.
The 990 tracks highest paid compensation in two places – Part VII, Line 1d on the main form and also Schedule J (There are 16 additional schedules that can accompany the main form and sometimes this is where the bodies are buried.)
There are two ways to examine the data.
What did the highest paid staff member receive?
What percentage of the total compensation expense (Part I, Line 15) are the Highest Compensated Employees taking?
Let’s start with the highest compensated in $ even though the percentage of total compensation by percentage may not be unusual.
Leadership of universities/medical facilities and private schools for the wealthy are routinely given higher salary in lieu of stock options. The theory is high leadership skill is required but leaders could also make more in the for-profit corporations with stock options as incentives. The eye popping salaries are a replacement for the stock and other incentives to be made at Apple, GE, and IBM.
Higher pay can be concealed by Part VII Section A Column F – Other related organizations. While I have an upcoming look at nonprofit captive corporations, some midmarket nonprofits with financial sophistication use this column to add an extra $50,000 to the executive compensation. Wish I worked there 🙂
Guidestar publishes an annual compensation report. For example, the CEO in Sacramento for a nonprofit should make approximately $54,000 if the total revenue is less than $500,000; $112,000 if the total revenue is less than $1 million. $130,000 if the total revenue is less than $5 million, and $175,000 at greater than $5 million revenue. These numbers strike many Boards as generous, but Guidestar is watching all of these clever add ons and reporting them. Why should you settle for less than fair? (Guidestar, 2017:208)
Let’s continue with the underpaid!
Leadership compensation by percentage of total compensation is how much the Board thinks that the leadership is worth. An agency of $6+ million should expect that leadership compensation will absorb 3-5% of total compensation.
Since ill-equipped leadership will never get the nonprofit to $6 million in revenue, small organizations may experience 6-12% of total compensation for leadership costs. Boards have to pay in advance of the larger size that good leadership can provide. It’s necessary pain of investment!
If you are in a $500,000 revenue organization, be careful not to overvalue the ED job. Let’s use the Sacramento example and your compensation should be $54,000. Because the company is small, your job may also include clerical for 25% of the time and program meetings for 25%. Those two compensations for full-time work are $30,000 and $40,000.
So your total compensation would be
50% ED – $27,000 (54,000*.5)
25% Clerical – $7,500 (30,000*.25)
25% Program – $10,000 (40,000*.25)
I’ve also seen another nonprofit with $18 million in revenue and 1% in Highest Compensated Staff. While I applaud the benefits that staff receive in pension and health, it appears that they are risking a loss of leadership when managers go to a convention and chat about salaries. (People gossip at conventions! ). Poor Board leadership.
Let’s finally think about the overpaid
I’m looking at a $7 million revenue organization with compensation requiring about 16% of the total compensation budget. That is leadership that has the board in their pocket!
I’m also looking at a medical nonprofit that has been in the news for fraud charges. There is $2.5 million in compensation from related organizations – for 2 people.
Board of Directors should structure compensation to be generous to leadership and expect high results in return. Small agencies must suffer with tight budgets until total revenue approaches $6+ million. Boards should work with Executive Directors/CEO so that most of their time is spent in leadership. Mixing job descriptions will never produce great results in lives of clients. At the same time, there are ceilings to compensation for highest paid employees. With the 990, we can see where an agency is on the continuum.
The CEO/ED job is challenging. A business coach can help and contact me if you need support to go through this process.
Did you work harder after you hired more people? The reason to hire more staff is because there is too much work. How can more people create more work instead of less work?
Companies go through ‘valleys of death.’ This is commonly described as any nonprofit between $1-6 million in revenue. This is the growth period where the need for more office support (administrative, legal, hr, accounting, etc) is high but the cash is really not there to pay everyone.
Valleys of Death – Employees
Another Valley of Death happens when the staff team grows and changes.
Companies usually start with the vision of one person. How many times have you seen a great visionary start a small homeless program? The new company is built around the passion and skill of the founder. Of course, the owner cannot prepare food, clean and recruit clients so helper people are hired, 2 social workers, a kitchen assistant, and a custodian. This model climbs to 10 employees. The new staff are owner-helpers. They don’t have much authority. The director/owner sets the rules for the shelter, orders the supplies and keeps the books. The helpers clean and help. It is critical that the director/owner trusts the helpers.
Over 10 staff and more is needed than loyalty to the director/owner. Good food and safe housing created a flood of applicants for the housing program. The director/owner helpers are replaced by staff who have the ability to make good decisions when the director/owner is not there.
The staff team over 25 people is the highest level of director/owner failure. It is possible for the owner to work too hard in the 10-20 staff member range and not hire capable people to exercise independent judgment. If the director/owner continues to add 30 helpers without independent good judgment
The director/owner will collapse from overwork OR
The agency will lose newer staff and cycle between shrinkage and growth with 25 staff
The director/owner must prepare for a constant change in role during growth. There is a steady shift from
Leader doing all of the work with help
Skillful staff taking over marketing, accounting, client engagement
Leader becoming a visionary and values thought leader with managers
Leader setting 3 year highly achievable goals with management team
There is a saying that at 10 staff the owner needs to hire someone identical to herself. At 100 staff, she needs to hire someone much different from her style to fill in missing skills.
The director feels too badly to transition staff who helped to start the company but don’t have a place on a larger team. One for-profit owner had two CEOs who could not grow as the company expanded to 5 sites around the world. He simply added them to his research staff at their same rate of pay – until he was no longer breaking even.
A nonprofit director lost many younger staff when three ‘original’ staff were mean and dismissive and no longer playing valuable roles. She couldn’t face the stress of honesty and transition.
A director liked to hire managers who were not threatening. They had less ability than the director. The agency could never break growth barriers because the team lacked skills and experience to take it to the next level.
There are personnel companies who can be hired to review job descriptions and actually transition unproductive managers when the owner/director or board does not feel capable of the task.
Leading a growing company is a difficult and constantly changing job. Your role requirements will not stay the same for 12 months. While sufficient cash is a challenge, the balance of effective people on the team at different stages is critical. The CEO job is challenging. A business coach can help and contact me if your team needs support to go through this process.