Monday, June 12, 2017


Are for-profit managers always a risky hire for non-profits
or can for-profit experience benefit smart non-profits?
Non-profits and for-profits serve different purposes in our economic ecosystem.

But those differences don't preclude a healthy exchange of ideas. Hiring from the other sector can be really smart to cross-pollenate ideas and best practices.

Some still worry taking on a manager from the for-profit world is akin to inviting a wolf into your flock.

Let's take a look at what problems to expect and how to mitigating risks of culture-clash through good communication.

Pro for hiring a for-profit manager into a non-profit organization:

  • The manager has skills developed in tough, cost-centered environments. Costs stay low and top of mind so maximum revenue can be delivered to the mission.
  • The manager is likely looking for something she can believe in more deeply than profits. She has come to some recognition that there is more in life than working for someone else. She will likely work very hard when the benefits are more tangible.
  • They might bring some more objectivity to the operations. It is easy to go too far and be too calloused in making cuts. But if the maximum revenue isn't getting to the mission, there is some room for being a little more hard-nosed. 
  • Business leaders are frequently accustomed to being transparent. Reporting is expected. Managers will ask their team members 'did the work get done? Why or why not?' You can typically count on objectivity and accountability from most successful business managers. 

Cons for hiring for-profit leaders into a non-profit organization:

  • They won't share our values
  • They are too oriented to the dollars and cents and not focused enough on growing programs and expanding or improving the mission's delivery. 
  • They might be too autonomous and try to move too quickly without the board's buy-in.
  • Their ethics might disagree with the organizations. This could, of course, be catastrophic. 
    • Therefore it is incumbent on both parties to talk about scenarios and sort through how certain situations would be handled and have an agreement before the offer is made. 
    • Agree on a set of guidelines that can be sourced before issues arise. These guidelines can evolve over time as trust is built.

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