Nonprofits are More like Businesses than You’d Think

Nonprofits are More like Businesses than You’d Think

Odds are if you’ve run a business, you’d have the ability to run a nonprofit or NGO. And vice versa, if you’ve run a nonprofit, you’d be ahead of the game in starting a business. Why is that? Well, it turns out that the nonprofit and business worlds have a lot more crossover than you’d think.

Nonprofits and businesses are both in the game of making money by offering a good or service. The difference lies in what happens with the money that is made. While business owners may take a payout or invest their earnings back in the business, nonprofits re-invest their earnings in their social services, amplifying their ability to do good in the world.

Let’s take a look at a few areas that demonstrate the operational similarities of these two parallel worlds:

Getting Started

Any nonprofit or business start-up has got to put in the time to do their homework before establishing themselves. As with any business, a nonprofit must do their market research to figure out whom they will serve and why. From needs assessments, population stats, an analysis on other operating organizations, and much more, a nonprofit must put in the work to ensure that they will serve a real purpose and make an impact where needed.

Strategic Planning

A strategic plan is at the core of running a nonprofit. If you don’t know where you’re going, what are you supposed to be doing day in and day out? Developing a strategy to reach their short-term and long-term goals is fundamental to sustain a nonprofit and ensure the organization stays true to its mission.

Capacity Building

If a nonprofit wants to stay ahead of the game and innovate their strategies, their staff must have the most up to date knowledge and training. Often,you’ll find professionals in positions that they weren’t necessarily trained for, but they had the skills to fulfill the duties or the experience in another field that could be applied in the nonprofit sector. While the extra cost is more of a burden to a nonprofit, the investment for staff capacity building is critical.

Marketing & Communication

In South America, I didn’t meet a single nonprofit team that had a communication or marketing-focused staff member. They were too busy in the day-to-day services that no one was communicating out the mission. Nonprofits must “sell” themselves in order to gain support from the community, and to let potential beneficiaries know that their services are available.

Return on Investment

Just as in any business, a nonprofit must ensure that they are getting a good return on investment. What good does it to do for the mission of the organization if it is not effectively supporting its beneficiaries? Just as businesses have the responsibility to report their impact to their investors, nonprofits have a responsibility to report measured impact back to their donors.


A nonprofit is just as apt as a business to be ahead of the game. Innovation can come in many shapes and colors. Innovation may even be new, creative ways to become a financially autonomous organization and reduce dependency on philanthropy.


Just as in the business world, nonprofits can easily feel like they have to compete with one another whether its for funding, developing an image, or reaching the most beneficiaries. Building partnerships can be fruitful on multiple fronts. Networking and finding new ways to collaborate can bring creative solutions to tough problems.

Check out these tips by Forbes to start operating your nonprofit like the business it is.

Are you looking to start a nonprofit or transform your business into a nonprofit entity? Contact us today, we’re happy to help.