Too often, the business and non-profit communities point out each other’s flaws. What they should be doing is learning from each other. Business people complain that nonprofits are ineffective and need to run more like, well, businesses. Nonprofits respond by saying that the complexities of nonprofits are unique and hard to appreciate. They are also quick to retort that it is big business that devours the ecosystem and keeps employees in poverty.
But before the nonprofits can say take that, you bad business person, business champions argue that outfits like Tesla and Seventh Generation do more to advance, say, environmental sustainability than many nonprofits. Some guy at Google named Larry Page even suggests we give all our money to corporations instead of charities.
The arguments have been going for years. They are pointless and counterproductive. Because if we are going to address the super scary, right now challenges of a planet loaded with billions of hungry people, leaders in both sectors, nay all of us, need to stop throwing around prejudices and binary stereotypes. Instead, for and nonprofit leaders should learn from each other. There’s a very promising middle path: combine the enterprise discipline and practices of the private sector with the altruism and great programs of the social sector and the scale of delivery provided by governments. Tri-sector thinking, strategy and execution.
In the work to transform struggling nonprofits into powerful, scalable enterprises, private-sector practices such as performance-based management, strategic frameworks, balanced scorecards, and disciplined and frequent use of data to drive performance improvement are central. While non-profits are often home to valuable programs that change lives, very few of the managers have the skills and experience to scale these programs to the size needed to solve the social issue. This where tools from the for profit world are handy.
On the flip side, need more businesses behaving altruistically. Smart companies know that truly fostering social good creates passionate employee engagement, which then creates productivity and profits. And engagement happens when the work is about more than hitting quarterly sales targets.
It’s smart marketing also, and progressive companies have long recognized that behaving responsibly and sustainably actually results in a more financially profitable company: there are no trade-offs.
We at Altruist love the middle ground between for- and non-profits. It’s where we will create the progress we badly need. Interesting companies like Tesla and Seventh Generation. Social enterprises. Altruistic entrepreneurs. Certified B Corps. Social Purpose Corporations. And our very favorites: the vanguard of non-profits who are true high performers (and who deliver tremendous levels of good).
In fact, in our ideal world, there will be only one sector. The social enterprise sector, where we truly protect people and the planet and everything on it. Great companies doing great work. We’re helping build this future, and we invite you to join us.