Entrepreneurial Leadership in Non-Profits

I came across an old file in my desk when I was teaching on change and innovation recently. It was a chapter by Peter Drucker on Entrepreneurship in Service Institutions. The book?  Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1985 edition. His insights and observations have relevance to non-profits, graduate schools, hospitals, and a plethora of organizations who are “called to serve” others.

We must remember, says Drucker, that we are called to maximize rather than optimize our impact. We cannot say things like, “We committed to healing every person who needs care anywhere on the planet!” Such missions are not just grandiose but are impossible to complete. You will always be a failure. But if instead the idea is maximizing resources to reach certain people, then that is more realistic.

So how do we accomplish our mission with innovation and entrepreneurship at the core? He gives a few guidelines.

1)     Make sure you have a clear definition of your mission. Focus on objects not programs and projects. “Feeding the hungry” is not clear enough. “Reaching people who do not know we exist” is too vague.

2)     Have clear goals that are attainable. “We are focused on serving 200 new patients in the free clinic this year” is more of what it should sound like.

3)     Failure to achieve an objective means the objective is wrong, especially after repeated tries. I see this with people who lay out a grand strategy for developing hundreds of leaders “in just three months” and they fail repeatedly. The objective needs to be right-sized.

4)     Constantly search for the innovative opportunity. Because funds are limited, creativity is even more of a need. Creative strategies and use of finite resources will allow you to thrive. The volunteer movements we are seeing are an example.

If you can convert your non-profit into a for-profit, Drucker says to do it. Entrepreneurship and Capital formation is a driver of innovation, and non-profits consume capital rather than form it. This is not true for churches and some groups, obviously. But some aspects of ministry or social work could be shifted so that resources are regenerated for the organization.

As I work with church leaders and business leaders, I see the same mistakes and issues. But they are more dramatic in the non-profit world. People must have a continued sense of the mission and clear guidelines for their contribution. You do not have an authority relationship with them, and they can walk at any time. No salary strings to pull and no emails saying, “Report to me today at 3:00 in my office.”

It is innovation, participation, a sense of urgency and a feeling of real contribution to the cause that keep people connected to your non-profit venture.

What are you doing to make sure people are part of the innovative vision you are pursuing? How can you use them without abusing their expertise? Are you seeing their potential to bring innovation not simply implement your ideas.

The non-profit service institutions need innovative leaders on the staff and in the volunteer ranks. Let’s rise to the occasion!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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