Nonprofits and business practice

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Bubba posts

I have spent 10 days in Canada discussing social innovation, social economy, eating seafood and predicting the upcoming NHL season. Cleet will be back from his exile tomorrow and we need to prepare for the new semester. Later today I will debate this lovely book that has been hailed as an absolute for philanthropists and nonprofit managers. I suppose the person(s) that put together this discussion believe I will lend support to the basic premise of the book, so eloquently summarized in this review”

Don’t charitable causes deserve the same kind of competitive forces that work to get results in the for-profit sector? Wouldn’t social causes be better served if charitable organizations were headed by the kind of bright, aggressive executives that work in the for-profit sector?

I do agree with several aspects in the book including the common belief that nonprofits are miracle workers that can deliver outstanding value by simply funneling money from A to B and at the same time keep all other costs to a minimum. It is indeed necessary to take on the expectation gap that exists in society. However, the idea that business practices are the same as best practices or practices for success is highly doubtful. Show me the evidence that for-profit business practices are better at solving social issues (and no, theory alone is not enough) and I will seriously start to consider the utility of business practice in the nonprofit sector. Second, I am always surprised when authors write about nonprofits and conduct all their prior research looking at either foundation reports or what consultants write. Why not look into nonprofit research and you will find, for example, that effectiveness is a different animal in the nonprofit sector.

Bubba

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