There are over 1.5 million not-for-profit organizations in the U.S. and close to 10 million across the world. Non-profit organizations are extremely important and their work to make a social impact and provide a public benefit is immeasurably vital in the world we live in today. That said, not all nonprofits are created equal.
I left a 25-year career in finance and started working in not-for-profits in 2021. The experiences that led me to my current position as the CEO of a brain cancer foundation were unusual. In 2016, my mother was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer. I made a promise on the last day of her life to give back to society by dedicating at least five years in a non-profit leadership capacity.
I came into the field with a unique skill set after years of experience, culminating as the head of two global divisions within one of the world’s largest banks. I have been able to bring fresh eyes to the not-for-profit field and, over the past two years, I’ve worked diligently on the boards of multiple cancer charities to help these nonprofit organizations do more good.
Here’s 4 Ways To Do More Good:
- Really Listen to the Community You Serve.
I’ve been surprised to find that many boards of directors get so into the nitty gritty of the running of the foundations they oversee that they lose sight of the big picture: the need to simply listen to the community they serve and ensure those expressed concerns are being met. It’s important to take pause, pinpoint who you are serving, and find out what will truly help them.
Once you know what is most important to your specific community, it’s time to plan and execute a strategy to provide support and guidance.
- Focus On the Process, Not the End Goal
Once you understand your community and formulate a mission and strategy that puts them first, it’s important to create specific actionable steps to check in as you carry out your plan. Everybody focuses on the end goal, but it’s a mistake. It’s more important to focus on the process, those incremental steps that get you to the goal. Why?
If you are only focused on the end goal, what happens if you exceed the goal? Or what happens if you fall short? Was it a failure? Focus on the process and you’ll be able to evaluate, adjust and pivot as you do the important work.
- Prioritize Diversity
A 2019 study found that 87% of non-profit CEOs are white. And while women make up 75% of non-profit jobs, only 22% of large nonprofits have female CEOs. I’ll note that among biotech for-profit companies, that number drops to less than 10%.
Not only is a diverse board important when you are serving a diverse community, but having a board made up of people from different backgrounds brings fresh and unique ideas to the table. Nurturing diversity at the board level is fundamental to a nonprofit’s success. Actively seek out new ideas and fresh concepts in order to fully serve your distinct community.
- Partner with Like-Minded Non-Profits
Let’s face it, nonprofits are constantly working to make miracles happen on tight budgets. So why don’t more organizations pool their resources and work together? Not only can working together help organizations cross-promote, share costs and even eliminate duplicative expenses, but partnering can also lead to sharing knowledge and, in turn, create a larger social impact.
Look to partner with other non-profit organizations that share your values and mission.
Buffalo-based Marketing Agency Launches Non-Profit to Support Small Businesses(Opens in a new browser tab)
Lance Kawaguchi, CEO of The Cure Brain Cancer Foundation since 2021, comes to the non-profit industry after over 25 years of global finance and banking experience. His outstanding leadership and innovative approach to diversity and inclusion have been recognized by many peak global bodies including the Treasury Management International, the BAME100 Board Talent Index, and as one of UPstanding 100’s leading ethnic minority executives. Lance has announced plans for a South Pole Trek in December 2023 to raise money for cancer foundations globally. Connect with him on LinkedIn.