My experience leading a nonprofit is now almost 2 months old. Nonprofits are different. That might be an obvious statement, but I didn’t really know how different they were from for-profit companies until recently. Instead of thinking about increasing shareholder value, I spend my time thinking about using resources to maximize impact. Rather than serving as a creative outlet for my former serial-entrepreneur CEO, I’m serving the needs of children in distant countries who cannot support themselves.
It’s all just so different.
Something else I noticed about a nonprofit organization; everything is a story. From whom we serve to where we serve, and the person who serves, and why they serve. They’re all stories; some long, some not so long. Context. Background. Experiences. Reasons.
At the for-profit company I worked for, I spent time wondering if we were “winning”. Were we beating the competition? Did we have better technology? Were our features more helpful than their features? Was our pricing right? Did we communicate a value proposition?
In my nonprofit, I wonder if we are communicating the needs of children effectively. Are we connecting those needs to people who can help? Was our last “Ask” successful? Are we asking enough? Are we asking too much?
There is something that isn’t different. Managing people. Managing can be rewarding. It can also be messy. It’s often challenging. Just getting to know new people takes a lot of investment. Sure, these new personalities with names at my nonprofit are different individuals than I use to interact with at the for-profit, but their needs are so similar. At my for-profit company, I spent hours mentoring, counseling, teaching, and growing people. I’m already doing that at my nonprofit. At my for-profit company, I loved watching people grow. I loved providing clarity. It was great watching the light bulb go off above the head of people as I helped them reveal and remove their obstacles. I’m doing that now at my nonprofit, and the feeling is always the same. It’s value. For me, and for these new people. I love this work.
And, I love working at a nonprofit.