Being versus DoingBy
Click here for an audio version of today’s article.
Is your organization more worried about Being than it is about Doing?
I submitted an audition recently for an audio book that got me thinking about how much time and energy is spent by the nonprofit sector in maintaining operations. It’s the often-discussed issue of being vs. doing.
In my experience, nonprofits spend a lot of time, energy and resources maintaining their operations. They are often called back-office functions. Those things that are required to keep a nonprofit running smoothly and efficiently but that are not (usually) actually related to the mission of the organization:
- Data entry
- Information technology
- Human resources
I completely understand that a nonprofit’s enterprise simply can’t function without these things. But when you look at the nonprofit sector in even a modestly sized community (like Manhattan, Kansas) there is a ton of time, energy and money wasted in duplication that could be better spent on solving problems and issues. Why do 25 different organizations each need a bookkeeper? Or HR staff? Or maintenance guy?
My hypothesis: You’re spending more time, energy, and money on “being” a nonprofit than you should.
What do you think?
I agree with Claire. This is tough. I wonder if we would tell different businesses that they need to band together to save costs. This has been put forth in our community often. There is much resistance from nonprofits based on fear of losing identity, confidentiality ad proprietary issues as well.
Currently, our organization is looking at trying to encourage two to five nonprofits to locate on a campus style building project. We are not being told no but it is challenging the nonprofits to look at their business model and their future differently.
We have offered our backoffice services to other organizations without any luck. There are some challenges when you consider proprietary and confidentiality issues. Additionally, we are looking at how much to charge and not compete with for profit businesses.
I think this issues is a good one to explore but has many angles that need to be considered.
This is a tough one. I think sometimes a group of small nonprofits could band together to outsource some administrative functions. But there are real life challenges. One is that there is something to be said for everyone on staff being passionate about the mission and feeling that they’re part of the team. It’s pretty hard to draw a line at where mission stops and administration begins. The other is that nonprofits, as much as we want to think they’re collaborative and cooperative, are often highly competitive. They don’t always share well or play well together.
I think you’re 100% correct. In a dream world, I guess EDs should hire people they can trust to do these jobs and then let them do their jobs while he or she focuses on the mission of the organization. I can hear people laughing at me now. :o)
As an admin focused person, I can see your point. So much focus goes into operations and it distracts from the main goal. The operations are a means to an end, not the end. They should be in place to serve you in fulfilling your mission, not the main point.