I spent most of my career in the business world. I was always extremely active and in leadership roles in church and other civic activities, but I earned my living in a for-profit environment. During those years, as an outsider looking in, I believed non-profits had so much to learn from the world of business.
Having spent the last 7 years in full-time ministry, I realize my perception wasn’t completely accurate. I still agree most churches and other non-profits can learn business principles from the corporate world, but now I realize the for-profit world can equally learn from the world of non-profits.
From my experience in the two worlds, here are a few examples where we can learn from each other:
Non-profits can learn from for-profits:
- Business management
- Structure and systems
- Performance evaluation
When it comes to making a profit and producing results, the for-profit world has mastered the task…or at least attempts to do so. Survival and success in this world depends on balancing everything from cash flow to employee performance results in an effort to show a profit to the bottom line.
For-profits can learn from non-profits:
- Social responsibility
In the non-profit world, the emphasis is on achieving the purpose of the organization. The focus of attention is not necessarily (actually not usually) on business principles as much as human principles. Success is determined more in accomplishing a mission than on realizing a financial gain. Non-profits advance people over profit.
I see a win/win situation when these two worlds collide. For-profits can be even more profitable when they invest in people and work towards the vision, even sometimes at the expense of immediate profits. Non-profits can continue their mission more effectively when they practice healthy business principles.
My questions is: How do we get these two worlds together more?
Are you currently in the non-profit or the for-profit world? Have you experienced both? Do you see other ways we can learn from each other?