Rodney W. Nichols, past President and CEO Emeritus of the NY Academy of Sciences, is Senior Advisor to the Alliance For Global Good. “Stop waiting for the world to change. Change it and the world will follow.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Most professionals have rued their many confrontations with the truth of that old saying: “Experience – it’s what you think you have until you get more.”
What is the experience when a non-profit tries to earn money? Yes, earn revenue for its mission! This novel path is now essential. And the probability of learning is high. After all, which college courses in social service taught marketing? Which ones taught pricing strategies?
But listen up. The Alliance For Global Good’s Innovation Fund was started in 2012, and has completed two rounds of rigorous national competitions to make eight grants to remarkable groups from Bolivia and the Congo to Kenya. The results to date show that non-profit organizations can turn the corner and make money for their causes.
However, no matter how well most of these groups do, for some the experience will be brutal. The “business” aspects will be “a struggle,” as the Economist magazine noted recently. Throughout the for-profit domain, the Economist added, “terror strikes young bosses when their beautiful business plans are shredded by aggressive competitors or by a lousy economy.” That will occur for non-profit social entrepreneurs, too.
On balance, most of the non-profit world is not yet ready for these ups and downs in competing to fulfill, promptly and efficiently, their customer’s demands for effective and reliable services. Yet the community must and will learn. Its big asset for such worthwhile change is that it does know how to focus.
So the experience will stick. And the urgently needed movement to create more social enterprises will enhance, over time, the larger philanthropic scene in the US and around the world.
The Innovation Fund thinks this process is an imperative. Give it a shot.
Rodney W. Nichols
April 2014 Rev 4/07/14