Thursday, May 13, 2010

Off to a nonprofit graduation

That's probably a misleading title, but it's true. My youngest child, Caitlin, graduates from Boston University on Sunday, and Chris and I leave today for the weekend festivities. And, like other private colleges and universities, BU is a nonprofit, complete with mission, staff, volunteers, fund-raising and a board of directors.

Universities, colleges and private schools are interesting entities in that they must, unlike nearly all non-educational nonprofits, appeal to the people who have gone through their programs: alumni. These alumni are regularly prodded to give money to their alma mater (I know I am) and offered reminders of how wonderful an institution the college, university or private school is.

And, unlike many nonprofits, these organizations only get one shot at serving their prime clientele: the student. Each student goes through the educational process, hopefully graduates, and then cannot return for more service (unless it's a higher degree or adult education).

Certainly a different mission mix than faith-based or arts organizations who want to serve a person over and over and over and where you never are "done." Many human services organizations wish they could "graduate" a person, but often can't, since the condition that brought the client to the nonprofit in the first place persists.


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