How to get Your Business involved with a Not-for-Profit (5 Easy Steps)

It’s nice to know that you want to do something to make the world a better place. It’s a great feeling. But then how do you do it?

Here are some key points which are the first things you can do to create something long lasting and sustainable for your business.

  1. Find an alignment in purpose

The first thing to do is to figure out what cause your business is naturally aligned with. If you are business that is food based, then maybe food based charities are your thing. Do you provide education and training? Then maybe causes around education would fit. Are you in the health field? Then something health related. Do you help businesses grow? Then definitely Opportunity International and microfinance are for you.

If you are unable to find an easy fit, take some time to think about what will connect with your business as a whole. You can select something that you care about individually but that will most likely end up becoming your own thing that may not create buy in from other staff. Plus, if you ever leave, your passion for that cause goes with it. Finding a solid alignment in purpose will create a long term relationship with a charity and long term solutions with impact.

2. Work out what your impact will be and how you will measure it

What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Be specific about it and outlandish. I know of people who want to help 1 million people out of poverty or become a millionaire of souls. Once you have your numbers, figure out exactly how you will measure that.

3. Choose an organisation that will fit

Now is the fun part. You get to choose an charity that is working in the area you are interested in, can facilitate the impact you are after, can report back on that impact and are willing to work with you to help make it a reality. There are quite literally, thousands of charities to choose from, so you get to shop around.

4. Create a plan with that organisation

Put something in writing. Not only does that help make it official for you and your business but it also lets the charity know that you are in it for the long haul. It is very helpful to be specific about how you are going to achieve the impact you are aiming for. Without a plan, your impact is just a bunch of meaningless numbers. Any charity worth their salt will help you with this process.

5. Stay Connected to it

This is done through ensuring the plan and goal are connected with your business by keeping it somewhere we people (yourself included) are going to see it. Create a tally to update, keep information available to all staff and ensure the charity are regularly in contact with you. Invite them to the office to chat to the staff – we love that stuff!

Doing these five things will set you up to create a meaningful connection with a charity, and help you with your greater purpose of making a significant positive impact on the world.

How Much Does That Cost?

How much do you spend on administration?

You know the question, you have possibly asked it before. How much of a donation to a charity gets spent on the programs and how much gets spent on staff and other back end costs. It’s a question I hear frequently about the organisation I work for and for every other not for profit in existence. It’s an important question because we need to be open about this, but it can’t be the only question we ask.

A colleague of mine, many years ago would ask people if they were needing life saving surgery would the most important question to the surgeon be about how much they charged or would it be about their success rate? Of course the response was that the success rate was the main thing people are interested in.

There are many organisations that people donate to that are quite literally saving lives around the world and how often do we ask about the success rate they have?

There needs to be a balance between the two, naturally, but the success rate should be just as, if not more important, than the administration rate.

Effectiveness in the work a not for profit does is not just about keeping costs low, it’s about having the greatest positive impact on our world.

Peanuts = Monkeys

I feel like we have all heard it said, ‘You have to spend money to make money’. This is true on many levels, but how do we feel about that when it is used in reference with a not-for-profit organisation? Can charities say that?

Let’s think of it this way – if there is a charity that no one has ever heard of, they will not receive any funding. A charity that has second rate staff is not going to create trust and therefore will not receive ongoing funding. A charity that is not working effectively because of lack of resources is going to waste money and will not receiving ongoing funding.

Dan Pallotta called this issue out in his TED talk (you should really watch it). The way we think about charity is wrong.

“You want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it, we’ll put you on the cover of wired magazine, but you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria you are considered a parasite yourself.” Dan Pallotta

Somewhere along the line we have decided that we need to choose between either doing well for ourselves and our family or doing good for the world and that somehow these two outcomes cannot exist within the same paradigm. It’s a belief system that makes sure that charities and other not-for-profits don’t grow too big and challenge the power of the for-profit sector.

Dan points out that this mentality can be traced back to the religious experience of penance from 400 years ago. There is a long history of making money and then carrying a feeling of guilt because a profit was earned. Some of that guilt was warranted as the profit was earned off the backs of slaves and the poor, but some of the guilt was an unnecessary burden placed on people because of their understanding of who God is. Regardless of the reason, giving to charity was the method used to ease one’s conscience. Charity, therefore, could not turn a profit because then it would cease to serve the purpose of paying for the individuals ‘sinful’ money making. Whilst I would suggest that much of the thinking around business and turning a profit has changed, the feeling about charities spending too much money, getting too big, or their employees earning too much has not.

It is important to be wise with the money that people give but our thinking does need to shift. Overhead costs, including staff wages, are part of the program costs and ‘admin’ is not a necessary evil which we don’t like to acknowledge. It is part of the program itself.

If you pay peanuts you will get monkeys. It may not be true all the time. Some may take a pay cut to work in the nonprofit sector for a period of time but you will always lose the good ones eventually. Our society shouldn’t have to make the choice between doing well for themselves and their family, or doing good for the world. They are not mutually exclusive.