Working With Nonprofits

I was recently involved with two different groups, a nonprofit and a for-profit. Both had nearly the same educational goals and ambitions for young people. To outsiders, you’d think they’d work together great, but they were fundamentally different. Let me explain.

Group 1: the nonprofits. This group consisted of 100% volunteers. Any talk of money was to ensure the smallest profit margin possible. Concern for conflict of interests was top on the list whenever vendors of for-profits were involved. Those who were profitable in the good work of the nonprofit were seen with suspicion and doubt. This group had lofty goals and sought big donations, but goals were seldom met and no one in the group was particularly wealthy enough to give themselves. Those who put time into the mechanics of this nonprofit were exhausted and overworked, none making a living at it. The future of the nonprofit was shaky and doubtful and their budget was thin. Surely, they’d claim, it was because of the bad economy.

Group 2: the for-profits. This group consisted of business owners and entrepreneurs. Talk of profit margins were expected, and the challenge was to make them as reasonably large as possible. They didn’t devalue nonprofit work – some were leaders of their own – but they didn’t necessarily like partnering with nonprofits. Others who were profitable in the market were the ones these people wanted to deal with. This group didn’t expect a handout or aid from anyone, and generosity was one of the common traits among them – even from some who weren’t so wealthy. The employees of this group of for-profit leaders were paid competitive wages and were able to raise families. Growth was in the for-profit’s future and, though the economy was tough on the business, they looked to invest in their future.

Question: Which of the two were easier to work with?

Better question: Which of the two actually accomplished what they set out to do?