In the 1980s, there was a movement to create loaned executive programs at companies, which would send their leaders for a period of time to a local nonprofit. The United Way, from what I have read, was one of the leaders of this movement. It seems to have died down in the last ten years. I rarely come across a company with a loaned executive program or a nonprofit hosting one.
It occurred to me recently that we should resurrect these programs, but with a twist. The nonprofit sector should loan their executives to companies, not vice versa.
Based on my short tenure in both sectors, nonprofits clearly have the edge on management. Effective nonprofit managers must:
- Manage to a mission and bottom line
- Motivate and retain employees on below market salaries
- Often hire at risk employees as part of their mission
- Deal with utopic employee expectations
- Innovate with no funds
When our pro bono volunteers visit clients, they often write to us and tell us how amazed they are with the ability and dedication of their client’s management. It blows them away.
Imagine the innovation we could spark at companies if they had a taste of nonprofit management. They would also likely find ways to boost their margins by identifying scores of cost cutting opportunities.
The companies, of course, would need to cover the opportunity costs of borrowing these executives – but the ROI would be clearly in their favor.