The results of our Five Good Ideas contest are in!
We asked what businesses can learn from non-profits and received advice from acrossCanada.
Here are the top five entries.
1. Hire globally by sourcing locally
(Charles Achampong, Manager, Corporate & Stakeholder Relations, TRIEC)
If your staff and board do not reflect the community you serve, chances are you are not going to understand their needs. With today’s demographic trends, in urban centres like Vancouver and Toronto, this means hiring skilled immigrants and visible minorities. It’s not just about equality; it’s about the expanded capacity to link to new markets, enhanced innovation, stronger social capital and, ultimately, the bottom line.
2. Understand your employees
(Elaine Magil, Manager, WoodGreen Community Services)
We know that non-profit work doesn’t usually pay well, so why do smart people do it? Because people choose their vocations for reasons beyond salary. People want to work where they feel valued and respected. They want to know that what they’re doing has impact. They want to go home at night and not question whether they’re making the world better off. On these metrics non-profits easily beat the private sector, where it’s accepted wisdom that if you want the best people you have to pay the most. I’d like to tell my corporate colleagues that it’s not that simple. If you build a corporate culture that nurtures people’s passions and helps them feel committed to the outcomes they’re working towards, salary will no longer be your primary recruitment tool. It’s harder to do, but lasts longer.
3. Long-term value creation
(Errol Mendes, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa)
Non-profits seek to be sustainable in the long term. Sadly, business is often blinded by short-term profits and interests especially if it is a publicly traded company. This has resulted in accounting irregularities and other unethical behaviour that have doomed so many companies.
If business learns from the best non-profits who focus on the long-term interests of their communities and their clients, then there could be a meeting ground for learning from each other. Non-profits can learn to be more efficient while business learn that long-term value creation can be profitable.
4. The right people (not the right product or program) make for a great organization
(Chris Pullenayagem, Director, Christian Reformed Church)
Many private (for profit) organizations rely on products or processes or programs to be successful in their business. For those that do, this seems to be an inverted way of pursuing excellence. People bring vision, passion and creativity to their work as evidenced in non-profit organizations. If the right people are hired, every organization will move towards excellence in achieving its vision and what it was mandated to do. Any organization can show results, but only this type of organization will thrive with excellence.
(Susan Ryan, Children’s Peace Theatre)
All non-profits have to improvise. Improvisation workshops are a powerful tool, and not just for training actors. According to Stony Brook University’s Centre for Communicating Science, improv frees anyone “to talk about their work more spontaneously and directly, to pay dynamic attention to their listeners and to connect personally with their audience. Improv can teach people to communicate more effectively with customers, co-workers, and the media.” Children’s Peace Theatre in Toronto takes improv workshops to the next level with a unique combination of collaborative theatre and conflict transformation.
Thanks to all who submitted an entry and congratulations to the winners, each of whom will receive a copy of the book Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success (Coach House 2011), co-edited by Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar.