Can businesses learn more from Charities?

Mark Carrigan asked the question on Linkedin last week “Charities are being told they can and should learn from business. Is the reverse also true?” and there have been some interesting responses, here is a short summary of response, check out the conversation on Linkedin or join it here with your own comments

I made a brief comment that the for profit sector could “certainly learn how to operate in a more lean way, the ratios we work to are unheard of in the for profit sector. I also think that communication could be an area that we can teach in, the few charities who do it well, do it great and I can think of a few service industries who could certainly learn a thing or two!”

Mark replied that he

view(s) ratios and margins, along with organisation efficiency, as a particularly important point. Ultimately it is about getting the sector to represent a sound return on investment and better availability of sector statistics and data to benchmark against would help organisations and give the sector a better stick to wave.”

Eugene Flynn said that

“… business efficiencies can often be achieved by mergers & collaboration, I expect more NGOs will have to look at this as an option due to current duplication within the sector. Non profits have more of a focus on social ROI rather than monetary profit & tend to be better at customer/constituent focus.. I believe business can learn a lot from this, for example; in the field of social media I’ve already observed some large corporates observing and mimicking NGO activity”

Joe Quinsey said that  having just moved from the private sector to the non profit sector he believes that

“…both sectors can learn from each other. My immediate reaction, when I compare my past and present environments, is that the private sector has more formal structures and processes and is more strategic and visionary with clear roadmaps to future goals etc. However, where the non profit environment excels is in the whole area of values and commitment. I observe deeply embedded values, passion and commitment to the cause” in the dna” of the folk that work in our charity.”

Aidan Stacey points out that

“There are few economic sectors in Ireland with as little data as the NGO sector. I moved from weekly sales figures per store per line per rep vs target vs last year vs previous 3 years – you get the picture. Even within the relatively numeric area of fundraising – there is a significant dearth of data. This allows less than passionate fundraisers fudge bad results to their management teams” Second – the key learning for Private sector in my view is the focus on “customer retention”. As conor points out the few who do things well in the ngo sector- do it really well and are continuously focused on retaining donors through good informative communication (Action Aid RedBee). I’m still astounded that in todays tough market I’ve yet to experience “retention” marketing from any of my service providers (work) or in my personal business world”

Shiela Nordon commented that the

Irish Non-profit Knowledge Exchange (INKEx) http://www.inkex.ie has been set up to specifically address the issue of providing ongoing reliable information on charities and nonprofits in Ireland and will over time give us the type of trend data we need drawn from regulatory reporting, currently to the Companies Registration Office but once the Charities Act has been fully commenced from the new Charities Regulatory Authority. Yes, we do operate from deeply embedded values and bring passion and commitment to our work but we also need to demonstrate accountability to those who support us by measuring and demonstrating the real impact of what we do, it’s no longer good enough to rely on people believing we are “doing good””

What are your thoughts? Who can learn what from who? Join the conversation on Linkedin (here) or post a comment below.

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