Monday, June 19, 2006

The summer issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review has a great articled called "What Business Execs Don't Know - But Should - About Nonprofits." The article features the findings of 11 high-level executives that made the switch from the for-profit sector to nonprofits.

One of my favorite quotes in the article is from William Novelli, the CEO of AARP, where he says, "[The nonprofit sector] goes beyond under-appreciated. CEOs are often disdainful of not-for-profit management. They think it’s undisciplined, nonquantified." But in fact, “it’s harder to succeed in the nonprofit world. For starters, nonprofits’ goals are both more complex and more intangible. “It may be hard to compete in the field of consumer packaged goods or electronics or high finance," he says, “but it’s harder to achieve goals in the nonprofit world because these goals tend to be behavioral. If you set out to do something about breast cancer in this country, or about Social Security solvency, it’s a hell of a lot harder to pull that off." And “it’s also harder to measure."

That in a nutshell sums up some of the misconceptions held by most of my classmates and even more of the for-profit recruiters. While these misconceptions don't necessarily hurt someone who wants to go into nonprofits post-Wharton, they definitely hinder someone trying to switch from nonprofits to for-profits.

The article sums up some of challenges and nuances in nonprofits. I wish every one of my classmates could have read the article before starting Wharton. It could be a huge step in helping those outside the sector "get" the sector.

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