Moving from Transactional to Transformational

There is dynamic activity in the not for profit sector unlike anything in recent memory.  Many historic organizations are struggling to maintain or develop relationships that can lead to transformational progress towards their mission. As a reminder, at Strategic Services, we use the term “Not For Profit” because we want organizations to be viable and sustainable. Your profit should further your mission.This is due to a number of factors:

  • Changing missions/visions to meet needs
  • Need for transparency and accountability tends to be more “transactional”
  • Trying to meet the needs of a broad cross-section of constituents
  • Large numbers of organizations in the sector

In my work at Community Health Charities, Tom Bognanno and I had the opportunity to begin to vision this through the various not for profit partners we worked with. There are a number of questions that you should be asking yourself: Has your organization experienced scope creep in your mission? Do you find yourself chasing opportunities rather than creating them? Do you seem to spend a lot of time putting in place processes and systems to manage the business? Have you been lusting after a certain demographic- if only we could reach “X” we could unleash “Y”. Are there several other organizations you directly compete with for a portion of your mission or for attention with a constituent base?

You are not alone and in fact many historic organizations are dealing with these same questions. It may seem like upstart groups have a leg up and seem to be able to impact the marketplace more quickly and more effectively. Upstarts have challenges too:

  • Credibility and transparency in the broader community
  • Scalability
  • Long term viability

I have good news and a challenge for all organizations.

The Good News

These types of occurrences are cyclical to a large extent. Some of the technologies may change but at the end, there is still a human behavioral element that you need to focus on (Relational). Recognize though that the marketplace now can better target those behaviors and in some cases create the behavior. You can also learn from the upstarts- they are bringing fresh approaches to issues and problems, many of which may be effective. Some of them will not be effective and that’s where an experienced organization can focus its energies on execution and delivery of established, effective services and products. Upstart organizations can also learn from established groups the transactional processes and systems that can help them as they grow. The historical organizations also typically meet standards that groups like the BBB/Wise Giving Alliance and other promulgate for consumers. This can give you some of the operational and transactional basis you need for transparency and credibility.

The Challenge 

Why can’t we bring both of these strengths together to solve the most pressing issues that our Not For Profit mission’s address? Collaboration would yield a transformational movement where we could leverage all of our talents and strengths. Here are some concepts from HBR. The synergy of this collaboration would be incredible and indeed transformational for our sector. We could be seen then as true partners in creating solutions along with other sectors. This is the intersection where organizations such as B-Corps are playing right now across the country and in some cases globally. Perhaps it’s time too look beyond transactions and build relationships that can transform our organizations so we can accomplish our critical life altering missions? Who’s ready to collaborate on this?