A few weeks ago I attended a conference in my capacity as a board member of a not-for-profit. This was not a “business” conference for me, because the conference was related to the work the not-for-profit does, not to accounting. I was there as a board member, not an accountant.
But of course, I can’t just turn off the accountant part of my brain. And some things were said at this conference that I have to blog about here in relation to not-for-profit and small-business management.
I Don’t Have Time to Do the Dirty Work
Many of the people at this conference were activists who were trying to get not-for-profits off the ground. Here are two quotes that stood out to me:
There’s too much work to be done in the field. I don’t have time to waste writing grant proposals
I don’t have time to meet with funders. Why don’t they come to me?
Not-for-profits aren’t that different from businesses, in that many of the leaders of not-for-profits that I encounter are Joe the Window Washers. They believe strongly in the mission of their group. They love helping people and doing the work that furthers the mission of the group. They have no use for anything that’s not directly related to the organization’s core mission.
The problem is: as with businesses, not-for-profits have a certain amount of crap that has to be dealt with:
- Someone has to meet with donors
- Someone has to write the grant proposals
- Someone has to deal with IRS filings
- Someone has to keep the books
- Someone has to manage the volunteers and/or employees
“Someone” is not a mystical fairy that comes in the middle of the night to wave a wand and make the hard stuff go away.
I think this reality is even harsher for not-for-profits than for small businesses.
A business owner can be a Joe the Window Washer and keep things small and manageable. Yes Joe has to accept that there will be some amount of bureaucracy to deal with, but he can do things to keep his sanity.
Not-for-profits don’t really have the option to just be a Joe, because not-for-profits have more hoops to jump through. And unfortunately, it’s the founders who will have to jump through those hoops.
Image courtesy of user Nemo on Pixabay.com