A Nonprofit is a Business
with Alan Harrison
Alan Harrison is a nonprofit executive with over 25 years of for-profit and nonprofit experience in a diverse set of roles. Born in Pennsylvania, Harrison holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Geneva College and an M.S. degree in Biology (specializing in Ecology) from Lehigh University.
There is a pervading view that nonprofits are somehow less serious than for-profits. I have run across this several times in many situations. Some people think that somehow the money just rolls in and work is a big party every day. There is also a view that everyone works for a pittance and you couldn’t really support yourself or a family working for a nonprofit. These views could not be further from the truth.
After many years of experience in nonprofit I have learned that a nonprofit is a business, just a different kind of business. For-profit businesses make goods or services in pursuit of money for shareholders or owners. This is the “profit” piece. Nonprofit businesses also make goods or services. The difference is that the nonprofit business is not in it to make money for an owner or shareholder, they are there to make good of some sort for a group of people that will benefit from the good or service. In simplified terms I like to think of nonprofits as business that make good not money.
Nonprofits businesses are not a party. Everyone who works at a nonprofit goes to work every day and works just like anyone else. If you do your job you keep it and succeed, if you don’t do it you get disciplined and eventually lose it. Nonprofit businesses have all the same functions as for-profit businesses. There are finance, HR and IT people. Someone cleans the offices and takes out the trash. Any function you can associate with a for-profit business is there with a nonprofit business. It may look a little different, but it is there. The fundraisers are analogous to the sales people in a for-profit business.
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