The Business of a Nonprofit

InnovationMy favorite class from the fall semester was Social Entrepreneurship. It brought great perspective and clarity to many topics of interest to me. The one I want to delve into here is regarding the viewpoint of nonprofits; what they are and how they operate. Several different speakers highlighted one simple idea – nonprofits should use their status to their own advantage, but still look at themselves as a business. I see this through the lens of innovation and using creativity to find or increase success.

The first idea that was brought up is that of using the “fee-for-service” model. This option can take on several different forms. Boys and Girls Clubs of America offer a fee-for-service in providing an after school option, but at a highly subsidized rate. The Executive Director for the Truckee Meadows clubs discussed how this income helps to offset some of the organizational costs incurred through operations. While this idea wasn’t new, it really stuck a nerve about providing regular income to the organization.

Another aspect of fee-for-service is reimbursement, which I feel adds to the ability to become sustainable. Life Change Center, located in Reno, NV, provides recovery services for addiction and is reimbursed for those services. The executive director spoke about the center’s success rate as a result of running the organization as a business; investing in experienced professionals and further investing in keeping them engaged in their work. Their website shows their success rate of 72%, as compared to a national average of 55%, which has been partially attributed to their business mindset. A key difference the executive director pointed out was that the profits are being reinvested into the organization, rather than being distributed to investors, stockholders or other owners.

The third speaker who really hit this point home was a co-founder of Zawadisha, a nonprofit focused on providing microfinance to women in Kenya. These loans are for acquiring household items that are safer, healthier and increase available time throughout the day to focus on other aspects of life, including small businesses. One of the ways Zawadisha has been able to find success is by creating an efficient and effective supply chain. The co-founder who came to speak with us also sent me this article on the subject of nonprofits and business, which I felt was also interesting.

In each of these cases, the organization has used its nonprofit status to their advantage while operating with a mindset that they are still seeking profitability. The point where I would like to go deeper into this topic is finding ways to apply this to existing organizations, as well as helping new organizations better plan using this business mindset. That, however, will be a post for another time.

What are your ideas for implementing business solutions to nonprofit organizations? Please post in the comment section below.

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Working for the NSBDC

Nevada-color with bandWorking as a business development advisor for the Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC) has allowed me to continue my goal of helping others achieve their greatest level of success. In fact, that is really at the heart of the NSBDC’s mission. Over the course of the last six months, I have learned a great deal and it has helped me to focus on what I would like to pursue in the future.

Since starting, many people have asked me what I do, so I created a video blog below to discuss the NSBDC and my role in the office.

The NSBDC is celebrating its 30th year of helping entrepreneurs and small businesses across Nevada. Funded through partnerships that include the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the University of Nevada, the NSBDC offers its services at no charge. This allows individuals and businesses to receive support they would otherwise not have been able to afford.

As a graduate assistant and businesses development advisor, I have been given a tremendous opportunity to help others. Specifically, I work with clients to provide whatever they need to succeed. This includes creating and reviewing business plans and financials, researching market and industry information, developing marketing plans and creating partnership that include various University departments. The clients I have been able to help range from needing help with financial projections for a loan to move to a larger location to generating a business plan to raise $20 million for a large project.

In addition to working directly with clients, I also write articles for the Reno Gazette-Journal, recruit and train student interns, writing grant proposals and helping to improve the efficiency of the office. Everything I have done for the NSBDC has been a great opportunity to use what I have learned through my MBA coursework, and continue to develop my professional skills.

To learn more about available resources, visit the websites for the NSBDC and SBA. To find a Small Business Development Center near you, click here.

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The Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship

Leading the entrepreneurial lifestyle can be one of the most difficult, but also the most rewarding career paths to follow. Reno, Nevada is not the largest market in the country, but there is an incredible entrepreneurial culture within the city. In looking for some statistics on the subject, I ran across a blog listing several resources to assist area businesses and most are specifically focused on entrepreneurs. This shows Reno’s high level of commitment towards those efforts.

ozmencenterWorking at the Nevada Small Business Development Center (NSBDC), I see this culture every day. Not listed in the blog is a new resource, just down the hall from the NSBDC, the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. The Center was established in the fall of 2014 through a generous gift by Eren and Fatih Ozmen; Nevada alumni and president and CEO, respectively, of Sierra Nevada Corporation. Sitting down with the Center’s Assistant Director and fellow MBA student, Kylie Rowe, I was able to get a detailed understanding of how the Ozmen Center stands out and has established itself as an excellent resource for the community.

The Ozmen Center is not meant to recreate anything that already exists in Reno as a competing endeavor, but focuses on promoting the entrepreneurial spirit on the University of Nevada campus. There are several ways the Center has already become a hub for activity and collaboration. It is where student entrepreneurs come to find resources and be directed to the best places to take their ideas, as well as hosting entrepreneurship club meetings and the livecast of Reno’s 1 Million Cups (something I try to take advantage of each week). These are just a few ways the Center is fostering the entrepreneurial community on campus.

In addition to helping students by providing space, direction and resources, Kylie and the Center have worked to expand the academic entrepreneurship courses offered. The entrepreneurship program, which includes a minor for undergraduates and an emphasis option within the MBA program, has been  expanded to include additional course offerings, such as entrepreneurial sales, and have been extremely popular. A certificate program in entrepreneurship is currently under development. While this may be seen by some as small additions, I believe the opportunity to understand entrepreneurship and foster the ideals behind it while still in school provides a tremendous advantage to those who will be the business leaders of tomorrow.

Working with entrepreneurs in my office, I see the benefits the Ozmen Center can have on the University community, as well as the Reno community. With a premier location and excellent team, the Center is in a fantastic position to help make a huge impact on the ability for young entrepreneurs to find success in their future efforts beyond the walls of the classroom at the University.

Click over to the Ozmen Center’s 2014 Annual Report to learn more about what they have accomplished and what they have in store for the future.

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