I had the pleasure last week to meet with an attorney who specializes in helping non-profits run more effective business organizations. The attorney's name is Carlye Christianson (firstname.lastname@example.org). We shared the perception based on common experience that many non-profits are good at their mission, but often are less than stellar at constructing an organization to support that mission.
During our discussion, Ms. Christianson shared with me a surprising statistic: more than 85% of non-profits have an annual revenues of $1,000,000 or less. But then when I thought about it, most of the non-profits I've been involved with fall into this category. And probably most U.S. businesses have annual revenues of less than a million too, since most US businesses are small businesses.
Of course, Ms. Christianson's practice is to assist the non-profits get the most out of their operating funds. Look at it this way: if she can get a $20,000 efficiency out of the operations of a $500,000 annual budget, she has just effected a 4% increase in available funds. That's economic responsibility: using what we have for better results.
Of course, I operate on the supply side. On of my favorite seminars is on Charitable Giving. Without expectation, I have helped host charities increase their revenues by showing individuals how to use the tax code to subsidize their gifts at 100% to their estates.
The bottom line for me: non-profits are a critical element in our society. They perform a service that government or single individuals can't do or can't do well. They are formed and staffed by people who are passionate about what they do. We need them and their work. Helping them more fully achieve their mission is part of what it means to me to be "economically responsible."