Why do people treat a non-profit differently than a profit?

imgresI have been involved in the non-profit area for years.  My first foray into the arena as a Chairperson was at Mouse.  I took the job seriously and treated the organization like a profit business.  I knew nothing else but that.  There were people on our board who would actually tell me when I made certain decisions that things are not done like that in the non-profit world and I would say why…and I don’t care because I am going to treat it as I would treat any business.  It was quite the learning experience.  I learned that people on non-profit boards don’t treat their role like they might have if the company was a profit center.  I also learned that everything must get done before the board meeting not at it.  BTW, that works in profit companies too but that is not what I want to write about.

I now chair Hot Bread Kitchen and Jessamyn Rodriguez who is the brain child behind this organization can tell you that I also talk to her about thinking like a profit center.  Although we are doing wonderful things at HBK including putting out a killer products we are a non-profit.  Thinking like a real business forces you to make decisions with a different head on your shoulders. It is not easy but in order to be a sustainable organization or close to it (when you do not have to rely on constant fundraising) you need to think this way.

I am amazed when I see board members on non-profit organizations make decisions based on politics not based on what is best for the company.  It is astounding to me.  I consider sitting on a non-profit board an honor.  I take that honor seriously.  I am there because they believe that I will help the organization to stick to their mission and that includes making tough decisions vs wimpy decisions because it is a non-profit organization.   There are so many influential talented successful people who sit on non-profit boards and when it comes to those boards they make decisions that they would never in a million years make in their own companies.  I wonder why they don’t ask themselves if is ok to have an organization that is not efficient in a profit company but why is it ok in a non-profit company?  It shouldn’t be.

I can only ask, why do people treat non-profit organizations different than profit ones?  I never have and I never will.