For years we’ve seen a slow, rising shift in people who want to apply their business skills and experience to the nonprofit realm. This shift is radically increasing as people lose their jobs and search for meaning; as the global economy necessitates innovative solutions; and as social entrepreneurship becomes a viable career path. Join us here as we discuss “Switching Sectors,” and what you need to know, before you make the leap.
Nokia Surprise: How Change Can Lead to Success
Did you know Nokia started out making rubber? That’s right. Nokia, one of the world’s greatly admired brands, started out by making rubber boots and snow tires. That was their focus on the national front in Finland. Bit by bit, they made a world entrance into the cellphone market. Samsung and Motorola were too large to pay attention. But within a decade, Nokia had outgrown Motorola, with a nearly $40 billion value.
What they did from a business perspective was critical: They both changed, and they stayed focused. That’s not easy to do.
Nokia consisted of three companies in 1922: Nokia (paper manufacturing, dating from the 1800s), Finnish Cable Works (telephone and electrical cables), and Finnish Rubber Works (galoshes). They operated across numerous industries: footwear, robotics, military communications, consumer electronics, plastics, chemicals. In fact, Nokia was going to go bankrupt until the Finnish businesses acquired them in the early 1900s. So Nokia needed the Finnish Works companies desperately, at the time. There were many changes throughout the century, different types of ownership and reporting structures, as they made their way in a global economy.
Change occurred again. In the 1990s, Nokia focused entirely on telecommunications, letting go of all other parts of their business. Three companies reemerged: Nokia, Nokia Tyres and Nokia Footwear. Within a decade, Nokia surprised Motorola and toppled them.
Their focus on telecommunications and Internet services now canvasses more than 150 countries, and leads manufacturing of mobile phones.
Leadership is an evolving process. There are times you will need to change. Times you need to refocus. Times when you need certain partnerships, and times when you need to focus on your core business.
Stay focused. And, be open to change. Success and leadership is an evolution.
Use Your Head and Your Heart
A decision to move into the nonprofit world must come from the head and the heart. It’s a true balance. Most people think you need to have strong passion and loyalty to a cause, and you do. But one must also have a strong desire for effective business planning and operations in order to ensure you deliver your product, in this case service to the community, effectively. At the same time, you can’t be ‘all business.’ We are compassionately serving others in very dire circumstances, revolving around hunger, jobs, education, health. the case of UniversalGiving, we are helping people who live on $800 annually, which is 70% of the world.
The wrong reason to get into a nonprofit is because you think it’s a ‘cush’ job or comes with less demands. Your responsibility increases. Fundraising is tough. And, if you fail to deliver, you are dealing with people’s lives, and the fact that they might not receive what they need to survive. In essence, your job can become one of helping others through life and death. It’s not just that your product line failed; here, a lifeline could have failed.
So here’s the next, honest step. It’s important to reassess what you value, and, how you can best contribute. Begin by asking yourself questions: “What do I really love to do? What would I feel good about doing? What would make me jump out of bed in the morning?” And then, “What skills do I have that can help realize this personal vision?” Passion, balanced with practicality, is what will be most helpful to you as well as our communities.
As you get prepared in this new vision for your life, you’ll likely realize that success, in any realm, requires passion and perseverance. It’s no different in the nonprofit realm. True success radiates from the organization and from your own sense of leadership. You have to absolutely love it, live it, nourish it, cherish your work. Then use your head to apply the business principles you learned in the for-profit world, to achieve this passion you have in your heart. Keep listening, learning and progressing along these lines. You’re on your way.
In Response to “When CEOs Go From Making Money to Raising It” by Dave McGinn
Dave’s article points to one of the toughest challenges in ‘switching sectors.’ I agree that an organization that is well run — be it for profit or nonprofit — is purely based on good, sound business principles.
However, Dave’s strong article relates to Execution within an organization.
Execution is critical. But they are companioned by Management and Communication, and, one might also include, Culture.
In both for profits and nonprofits, fairness and kindness are strong guiding principles. However, “compensation” in the nonprofit realm is highly different. Money can be a big draw, but the most important factor is that people love what they are devoted to; that they believe in the ethical and intelligent leadership of the nonprofit; and that they feel warmly recognized for their efforts.
CEOS, executives and leadership teams should kindly take note and realize that money will not compensate. They will need to invest time, their personal time, in demonstrating their care for team members’ efforts, and recognizing them.
Now this holds true, or should hold true for forprofits as well. However, in the for profit world, even if you don’t take the time to provide this care, you might still be able to retain your team with financial compensation.
If as CEO or an executive you can’t take this time to appreciate, you most likely will not retain your team in the nonprofit world. Most people here want their lives to be devoted to good. And if the nonprofit doesn’t feel like a culture of appreciation, they most likely won’t stay for any reason.
Regardless, it’s a great lesson for us all. Each day is a new day, one of learning, growth, appreciation. We can’t take anything or anyone for granted. Continuing that cycle of positive gratitude should hopefully be a part of our professional worklife, regardless of the structure.
Satisfaction is Not in the Structure
Often I get a call or email from someone who says that they would like more meaning in their lives. It’s wonderful to hear. One of the positives coming out of this economy is that people want their day-to-day experiences to have more value. So they start reassessing what their purpose is, and often think about switching from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector.
One important point to remember when “switching sectors” is that there’s no easy guarantee. I appreciate working in the nonprofit world and that purity of motive. However, it is not in itself a guarantee of a satisfying work experience, just as a position in the for-profit world is not a guarantee of financial success. This is one of the great misconceptions: Switching from a forprofit job to a nonprofit position will automatically provide meaning.
So what should you consider in making this transition?
First, good organizations can be for-profit or nonprofit. One can’t generalize that one is more efficient, or more meaningful, than the other. There are well-run for-profits. There are poorly run for-profits. Similarly, there are well-managed and poorly managed nonprofits. So my first big takeaway from my own experiences with transitioning is that it comes down to leadership. Ensure you are working with and for a good leader and leadership team.
Secondly, regardless of the organizational structure, you need three major components to ensure professional satisfaction in this transition. One should be inspired by the following:
1- The Vision
2- Your Day-to-Day Activities
3- The People
You should believe in where the company is going. You should envision yourself at your desk and enjoy the minute-by-minute, practical tasks. And you should feel synergy and smooth interactions with the people with whom you are working.
Just imagine your day with only 2 or 3 of these components, and you can see how it might not be fully satisfying. For example, if you appreciate the grand vision, but you don’t like your day to day activities, you might not last long. If you are inspired by the vision and day-to-day, but you aren’t comfortable with the team, it makes for a challenging work situation.
Having said that, working at a nonprofit is usually very meaningful, Just make sure you pick a great leader, team, vision and job. That sounds like a lot to nail down — and it is. For many people, it’s a long-term quest to find something that they believe in and love to do, with people they admire and respect.