Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Strategy: chase the money

Our class this week at Kellogg was about strategy in nonprofits. It was a well-discussed issue, with the NFTE (the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship) as the case.

I loved the discussion, but the next day on a plane to Sacramento, I was thinking how far too many nonprofits have the following strategy: Chase the money, and rationalize that this enhances the mission. Really. When you look at many nonprofit organizational charts, you see three, four, five, even ten different industries that they are in, all wrapped around an issue (hunger, homelessness, disabilities), and many of these services are provided adequately, but not well.

I fully understand that issues like homelessness can't be solved just by providing shelter, and that in the quest to go after root problems, some expansion of mission is pretty common. But there is so little careful consideration of whether or not a new service can be done well, right from the start. The lure of the grant/contract, and of growth overshadows quality nearly every time. When was the last time your organization turned down money on the basis of poor quality? Do you do everything, really, really well?

Don't the people we serve deserve to be served better than just adequately?