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Managing in the Non-Profit World

Nonprofit organizations are different from business and government. One would reasonably expect to manage and govern them differently. However, in the absence of a general framework for nonprofit management, third sector organizations are under persistent pressure to look like something else. On the one hand, nonprofits are advised (sometimes by “venture” philanthropists) to become more entrepreneurial and business savvy, orienting their organizations more closely to market forces. Yet only about 30% (one-third) of businesses and/ or entrepreneurial ventures will survive their 10th year in business. (Per US Dept Labor Statistics 2016) The most recent data shows that of the small businesses that opened in March of 2006 32.8% made it to March of 2016.) At the same time, organizations are urged to make increasing the reliability and accountability of their “outcomes” their highest priority, by controlling internal processes and structuring and orienting themselves as hierarchies. In the nonprofit world, however, there is no common, easily understood measure of success. In fact, having a large positive bottom line may be an indicator that the organization is not doing as much as it could to fulfill its mission. (Non-Profit Quarterly -July 2013). Nonprofit leaders have a complex task: carrying out challenging missions with limited resources and sometimes conflicting demands in the midst of constantly evolving networks of organizational and personal relationships. Open and interactive leadership practices and organizational cultures strengthen the ability of nonprofits to interpret and adapt to opportunities in this shifting environment and to make the most effective use of the ideas and resources available in their organizations, networks, and communities.

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