Have you lost your compass?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 26th, 2008 in Articles, Thoughts & Commentary

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Announcement:  there will not be, now, tomorrow or ever, a $700 billion or even an $85 billion bailout for the nonprofit sector.  So, when we say we are businesses, don’t get too carried away with that thought.  Remember, we are businesses that must be beholden to our mission, balancing our bottom line with how well we are delivering on the promises of our mission.  Like so many other examples of the past, we are facing another perfect example of the fact that “we must run like a business” is no better advice for a nonprofit than saying “do not run like a nonprofit.”  The sage advice is to operate like a smart, ethical organization of any kind that is clear as to its priorities (in the case of a nonprofit, its mission) and the ethos of how its community must operate (in the case of both nonprofit and for-profit, the core values). 

In other words, clarity on mission and core values, using both as the compass that guides the organization in every decision, every action, every interaction is the right way to run an organization. So, step back for a moment from your panic over the economy, stop believing that more money is the answer to all that ails your organization and ask yourself this question:  are the members of this organization clear about and galvanized around the mission and core values.  If and only if the answer is a firm yes, you may go back to worrying about the economy and how it will affect your organization.  If, however, the answer is not a firm yes, pull the board and staff immediately together and get clear.

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.