Don’t’s and Do’s for Nonprofits

It has been over 20 years since Peter Drucker gave us his critical “don’t’s and do’s” for nonprofits in the book Managing the Non-Profit Organization.  You would think that more of us would have read that advice and done something about it by now.  Sadly, many of the “don’t’s” still remain a part of the makeup of most nonprofits, and most of the “do’s” aren’t being done.  If you are currently leading or you are looking to lead a nonprofit, you may want to take a look at the following from Drucker.

Does what you do service your mission or does it simply fit the rules?

Non-profits are prone to become inward-looking.  People are so convinced that they are doing the right thing, and so committed to their cause, that they see the institution as an end in itself.  But that’s a bureaucracy.

In every move, in every decision, in every policy, the non-profit institution needs to start out by asking, Will this advance our capacity to carry out or mission?  It should start with the end result, should focus outside-in rather than inside-out.

Do you allow feuding and bickering?

Most people think that feuding a bickering bespeak “personality conflicts.”  They rarely do.  They usually are symptoms of the need to change the organization.

That (bickering) is a sign that you’d better be looking at your organization…When noise level rises, it’s a sign of discomfort.  Your organization structure and the reality of your operation aren’t congruent anymore.  Then you need a change in your structure.

Do you build the organization around hierarchy or open communication?

Everybody in the non-profit institution–all the way up and down–should be expected to take information responsibility.  Everyone needs to ask two questions:  What information do I need to do my job–from whom, when, how?  And: What information do I owe others so that they can do their job, in what form, and when?

This means that the organization can be much flatter and have many fewer layers… Each relay in an information chain cuts the message in half and doubles the “noise.”