Nonprofit Management Takes Lessons From the For-profit World

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard more often than not about how nonprofits need to run more like a business. They either don’t have a strategy for the future and operate more from the heart, are not financially disciplined in how they get money to sustain their mission, or don’t have strong and deep enough management and leadership talent in place to sustain their mission, vision, and values long into the future.

Chuck Fernandez
Chuck Fernandez – CEO
“The reality is that nonprofits are mission-based businesses”

For-profits pursue a profit for their shareholders while nonprofits pursue a mission around a social cause. The good nonprofits usually have a clear mission and vision for where they are going, a businesslike board of directors, strong educated staff, internal controls, a communications and marketing plan, a commitment to leadership and management development, are financially diversified, and have the ability to quickly respond to a changing marketplace.

While we do have changes to make at Catholic Charities, the reality is that we already have many of the key ingredients of a strong business. We are stronger is some areas and need work in other areas. Our goal now is to bring everything together and to become a center of excellence.

Our staff, for example, is simply excellent. They are smart, dedicated, and passionate about serving those most in need. Many are here because they feel called to serve and make a difference. The very same can be said for our passionate, talented volunteers, who bring their strengths and gifts to Catholic Charities in service of others. Our board is strong, diversified in their talents and skills, and definitely business-like as noted in their bios on our website. They get it quickly and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. We just hired a communication manager for the first time and are focused on marketing, improved communication throughout the Diocese, and our brand. We appointed a volunteer coordinator to recruit and better integrate our volunteers. We are pursuing accreditation status through the Council on Accreditation (COA). This will help ensure that we have written policies, procedures, and systems for everything we do such as hiring, performance evaluations, case management, staff training and development, grant writing and fundraising, risk management, quality improvement process, and much more. We just implemented an evidenced-based fundraising model that will bring consistency to how we conduct the fundraising portion of our business. As I wrote in a recent entry, we have embraced a culture of philanthropy that engages not just our staff and board but also our cherished donors. We are also focused on what we measure to determine our social impact in the community.

Our goal at Catholic Charities is to achieve excellence in everything we do. Yes, we have a ways to go, but the wheels are in motion. Our plans, execution, language, and attitude are all moving in the right direction, our energy and successes are exciting, and we are making an impact. Discipline in how we do business is key AND we must not forget why we exist – to serve those most in need. We are the social service arm of the Catholic Church.

I invite you to come and see how we are transforming more lives than ever through disciplined nonprofit management. Our Transforming Lives Tours are on the second and third Thursday of every month and begin Thursday, January 8, 2015 at our main office located on 433 Jefferson Street, Oakland. Please contact Debra Gunn at 510-768-3142 or

With kindest regards until next time,