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CHANGING THE WAY
YOU DO BUSINESS
The trouble with being poor is that it
takes up all your time.
—WILLIAM DE KOONING, ARTIST
This book is about changing your nonprofit organization from a poor, grant-dependent,sand-kicked-in-your-face operation into one that is muscular and self-reliant.It is about paying your own way with earned income ventures, and aboutusing those ventures to improve the delivery of your mission.
This book is also about changing the skinny way you think. For too long,nonprofits have been bound by assumptions that limit their effectiveness. Nomore. A new class of nonprofits has developed, with muscular attitudes andbehaviors borrowed from the private sector. The private sector provides someexcellent role models—just because they're brawny doesn't mean they're badguys! So let's throw out your tacit tongue tssks right now.
We'll show you how to develop an entrepreneurial nonprofit, one that isgoal- and customer-oriented. You will learn how to shape a strong, practicalvision. You will see for yourself that your nonprofit can be innovative, risk-taking,and solvent; ventures will earn you predictable and unrestricted operatingincome. Above all, this book will help you sell your mission—to broaderaudiences than you've ever dreamed.
LICENSE TO DREAM
Look what other people have dreamed up overthe past few years, eBay. JesseVentura. Palm Pilots. Britney Spears' belly button! We all got here, to this improbableplace of other people's fantasies, through marketing. Still, so many importantissues go unresolved while people are out walking their pet Guccis. Nonprofits,especially, seem to be having a hard time being heard.
Because your fantasy has been weighted down by the seriousness of yourmission; your fantasy has taken a bum rap. Some people talk about fantasy as if itwere an outdated concept, maybe even a dangerous one, as if it distracts you fromreality. Quit daydreaming, they say. Come down to Earth. Get on with business.
In fact, fantasy has lots to do with business—especially yours. Imaginingis the business of nonprofits. It is the imagination that sees a more equitable,more productive world. It is the first step toward creating change. How else arewe going to feed the hungry? Or cure the sick? Shelter the homeless? Retraintroubled youth? Assist the disabled? Prevent crime? Nonprofits know all aboutfantasy. That's where their goals begin.
THE END AT THE BEGINNING
Unfortunately, that's also where fantasy ends for most nonprofits: at the beginning.Missions are sparked and sculpted from fantasy, but when it comes to thepolitics and business of carrying out those missions, nonprofits have traditionallyfloundered; they can't produce results the way the private sector does; theybecome traditionalists; they become the invisible sector. Irritating, isn't it?
There are a bunch of transitional assumptions you've been luggingaround, assumptions about how nonprofits operate. To show you how universalthese assumptions are, we've made a list, and we'll bet you can separate the sevennonproft grindstones from the others.
1. Money will always be a problem.
2. We will always be grant dependent.
3. We will always need some Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
4. We will always be tied to funders' priorities and schedules.
5. We shouldn't take the pitch on 3 and 0.
6. We can't go back to Constantinople.
7. There will be long lag times between getting a grant and getting the money.
8. Our staff will always be overworked and underpaid.
9. We're dependent on volunteers who aren't always effective.
10. Hawaii is effective.
11. We can't afford to go to Hawaii very often.
12. We can't afford to do projects the way we would like.
Now, let's tally up your score.
If you chose Assumptions #3, 5, 6, 10, and 11, then you've got adistorted sense of grindstones. It's the other assumptions that are limitingyour power.
Look at the assumptions again. Highlight them with a yellow marker.You may want to change the world, but assumptions like these—thinking likethis—is tying your hands. Thinking like this limits your ability to earn money, toreach new audiences, to adapt to change—to deliver your mission. Believing theseassumptions condemns you to live them. It means you'll always be left on thebeach or standing in line for the leftovers.
NEW NONPROFIT ASSUMPTIONS
Cheer up. Many nonprofits have learned not to operate under these traditionalassumptions. They are becoming productive. In fact, in the last two decades, theLabor Department reports that the nonprofit sector has grown faster than eitherprivate business or the government. Enterprising nonprofits have followed theirfantasies, and their fantasies have released them from assumptions, have freedthem to scout new ways of accomplishing their objectives. You can too. You candecide where you want to go and at what pace.
Take a closer look at your organization and you're likely to find fantasiesalready floating around, even if you haven't checked them for a while. Don't someof your fantasies look like this?
THE FILTHY RICH FANTASY
We'll have lots of unrestricted cash.
The money will be spaced evenly throughout the year.
We'll use the revenues for projects of our own choosing.
Revenues will cover our general operating costs.
OTHER NONPROFIT FANTASIES
We will reach huge audiences with our mission and message.
We will pay our staff competitive salaries.
Our staff won't be chronically overworked.
We will be the best organization in our field.
We will effect change.
It's time to talk about these fantasies in the light of day, not stash themaway as ties to a world that probably was never as good as it is remembered.Realize your fantasies by changing the way you do business, by dropping theonerous nonprofit assumptions and embracing some productive assumptions fromthe private sector. As Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching."
NEW NONPROFIT ASSUMPTIONS
NONPROFITS CAN OPERATE LIKE BUSINESSES. By adopting for-profit attitudes and behaviors, nonprofits can strengthen the way they operate, the way they serve their customers, the way they meet their goals, and the way they deliver their missions.
NONPROFITS CAN HAVE A CLEAR VISION OF THE FUTURE AND A CLEAR PATH FOR GETTING THERE. By being proactive rather than reactive, nonprofits can anticipate changes in funding and market needs, monitor trends, and plan accordingly.
We're going to assist you in making these new assumptions secondnature. In doing so, your nonprofit fantasies will become reality. Your nonprofitcan be customer centered, always looking for the next need, with new and betterways to fill that need. Your staff won't have to be underpaid and overworked; byoffering incentives and rewards, nonprofits can keep staff motivated and paysalaries commensurate with the private sector. Your audiences are not all poor; bybroadening your view of whom you serve, your nonprofit can develop new,paying audiences for its programs. You don't have to wait and compete forfunders' handouts. By developing programs that meet businesses' needs you canearn money from corporations and put them to work for you. Isn't it about timefor that?
Stay loose and read on.
Excerpted from FILTHY RICH by RICHARD STECKEL With Robin Simons, Peter Lengsfelder, and Jennifer Lehman. Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Richard Steckel. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.