Not so Different
Most of my friends remain in the corporate sector and we find ourselves speaking about the differences between working for-profits and nonprofits. As far as Im concerned the only real difference between them is a financial/legal one one pays taxes and is allowed to distribute excess capital to employees and shareholders. Colleagues would argue that non-profits also differ in culture, attitude, accountability, strategy and many other things. I would argue that these elements also exist in for profit organizations and may vary depending on size and industry. In other words, I found the culture at Citibank to be very different than Avon, than GM, etc.
I would admit that there is another difference between Nonprofits vs. For-Profits related more to being mission vs. performance driven; however, having been exposed to several organizations within the nonprofit sector, I would say, that many can benefit from some performance components. For example, in the performing arts center, I was responsible for the brand, and for the marketing of over 600 events annually.
We created/executed brand guidelines ensuring our look and feel was consistently portrayed e.g. signage at the theater, promotional materials, advertising, digital, website, etc. In addition, we optimized the small budgets of the events by managing well the identification of target consumers, advertising plans, media buys, pricing, promotional materials, events, social media exposure, press releases, sales center, customer care, etc.
There was real accountability. But in addition, we were responsible for increasing the number of donors going for share of heart and growing membership. We wore one hat which pushed product and another which created the need to bring in funding. I enjoyed my time tremendously at the Broward Center. It was exciting and I was always challenged to generate revenue from varied channels.
Benefits of Working With Nonprofits
The Soup Kitchen of Boynton Beach is also characterized as a nonprofit. It exists only through the generosity of the community as they receive no funding from local, county, state or federal governments. While they too required branding work, their marketing efforts dealt more, again establishing a brand that connected with members of the community; consistently portraying the brand in all communication channels, developing a customer friendly website and a strong direct marketing program for fundraising.
I personally believe nonprofits can benefit from employing individuals from the corporate sector. We seem to understand strategic planning/execution more and are inclined to measure results and think return on investment. Sadly, I found few that even had a five year plan. No doubt there is an opportunity to improve operations.
From a marketing perspective both sectors have customers to reach. Obviously in the for profit world there is the consumer, who purchases the goods or service; in the nonprofit world there is the individual who benefits from your goods or service; volunteers who you need to motivate to join your cause and donors who provide funding. Current information suggests that approximately 26.5% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteer for an organization.
Whether you are employed or non-employed, I would encourage you also to volunteer. Identify a cause that you are passionate about or an organization you value and jump in. There are many benefits to volunteering. Its a wonderful way for you to build or keep skills active, be challenged, make new friends, develop a career network, be an agent of change, build your resume, enhance your education etc.
There is also another reason to consider volunteering and/or working in a nonprofit -- the opportunity you have to create positive change in your community. Its a wonderful feeling, to be part of progressing the organizations efforts and helping members in the community. It does not get any better than that! Knowing that what you do is making a difference.
Sources: 2012 IRS Data Book, The NonProfit Almanac 2012, Current Population Survey, September 2012
About the author
Sonoia Green is a nationally recognized leader in marketing and brand communications forover 25 years, with a specialty in multicultural/diversity marketing.
Sonia was the first Director of Avon's first U.S. Hispanic Marketing Division, she successfully developed and introduced new products and marketing programs. She also served as President and Chief Operating Officer for the company, Ingram Micro, the world's largest distributor of technology products. Ms. Green was Director of Diversity Marketing and Sales at General Motors with responsibility for the Hispanic and Asian consumer segments. Ms. Green was instrumental in developing the strategic plans that generated market share increases. Most recently Ms. Green served as V.P. of Marketing and Sales at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Hispanic Institute for Research and Development, Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, and the National Hispanic Corporate Council at which held the Chairperson position.
Ms. Green received her B.B.A., Baruch College of NY and Marketing Management Program, Columbia University Graduate School of Business.