Dragana Nikolic
Dragana Nikolic 15 September 2015

How Non-Profits Can Empower Entrepreneurship

Mathematics is an exact science, but real life is not.

Non-profits are very often connected to claiming human rights and freedoms. Officially, the US Bill of Rights (1791) has cleared a path to many initiatives that resulted in great movements and important declarations. Members of many non-profit organizations are actively engaged individuals, whose goal is to achieve a mutual benefit for their communities. Apart from gaining profit for the organization, they try to make positive changes in their environment.


Non-profit organizations now consist of different initiatives, broader than the ones aimed at human rights protection. With new problems emerging (e.g. environmental issues, labour rights, youth unemployment), the spectre of activism only spreads onto new fields. Members of NGOs (non-governmental organizations or non-profits) are people who are willing to help, make changes and resolve problems. But, these people are also educated, conscious and objective; their knowledge is far beyond those who only gain formal education.


One method to empower these people is through non-formal education. There are so many trainings organized by non-profits, which lead to acquiring new skills and knowledge. These skills are effective in shaping future initiatives through activism. But, some of these skills are essential in shaping future entrepreneurs and leaders. People can learn about entrepreneurship from training sessions, but also from numerous activities they’ve been involved to. Some of the excellent skills that can shape a great entrepreneur and are taught within non-profits are:

1) Teamwork: this is the essential part of every local/regional/international activity. People who work on the same initiative need to act in teams. Only effective teamwork can lead to success and meet deadlines. The same is with entrepreneurs. They can fight alone, but they cannot do everything by themselves. With a help of their team mates, they can achieve more than planned and more than ever imagined.

2) Time Management: planning a project or initiative needs excellent activity scheduling. When you have a time frame for implementing planned activities, you can certainly meet your deadlines. In non-profit management, time is essential since all activities are time-limited. Good managers know how to handle time, since "time is money". You spend money - it comes and goes. But, time can never come back. Great entrepreneurs know that.

3) Project Management: a key element to make an initiative "live" is to do a complete project management cycle. From planning, drafting, crafting, until final implementation and the follow-up, you learn how to handle small, but also big projects. Here you determine your target audience and know from the very beginning who are you working for. In entrepreneurship, target group is the most important part; project management is the second most important one.

4) Strategy Development: oh, so many articles and books about strategical approach. In non-profits, making a strategy is essential for determining a current situation. For example: we run a project for gender equality in our local community. Making a strategy means - we target our stakeholders and see if there is room for improving relationships with some of them (e.g. local authorities, sponsors, social groups relevant for the project). Then we make a media strategy for targeting other community members that are not directly involved in project’s decision process (but are also members of a wider stakeholders’ group). After the mapping process, we modify and start implementing activities. After implementation, we make a follow-up strategy. And so on. Good entrepreneurs recognize this part as essential. Without strategy conception, strategy implementation and strategy improvement, you cannot expect a successful outcome.

5) Action Plan Development: it’s also very important to, when a strategy is made, determine who is responsible for what. This means parsing the activities and attributing them with responsible persons or departments; adding a time-frame and a desired outcome. Action plans are timetables of activities. Entrepreneurship is based on activities, but is also based on people’s role in these activities. Developing an action plan is a skill also very important for entrepreneurs.

6) Budgeting: planning a budget is not an easy part. It’s usually done prior to project implementation, and it includes a specific amount that should be spent. Very often, there are unpredicted costs that occur during the implementation process. These costs should be planned prior to activity implementation. But, practice has never encountered a project that met all budget costs exactly as they were planned. Every entrepreneur meets similar situations, since many things are unpredictable in business. Mathematics is an exact science, but real life is not.

7) Fund-Raising: since non-profits are usually organizations with no funds, they aim to raise money from other institutions in order to distribute it to whom this money is needed. These funds are transferred to goods, materials, technical equipment, infrastructure, education, etc. Fund-raising is a crucial part for every successful project. In the world of entrepreneurs, this is often called a "pitch". The pitch is a process aimed at raising funds for an initiative. See? A very similar process. You need to persuade in order to gain.

8) Follow-Up: every good project has its follow-up. This can be an additional activity or a plan to start a new project cycle. Follow-up is the healthy part of project planning, since the end of one project immediately means a start of another one. There are also lessons learned from each project. These lessons, mistakes, good practices and desired outcomes are part of every future planning process. Follow-up is also a part of strategy development, but based on a previous experience. Every entrepreneur should do a follow-up after each project. Combined with a good strategy, it can lead only to higher profit and better customer projects.

9) Evaluation And Monitoring: Each project done for a non-profit organization needs to be evaluated (e.g. goals achieved, results measured, etc.). It happens many times that a monitoring team is engaged to look into the project’s success and propose some changes (if needed). For a modern entrepreneur, evaluation and monitoring is done in a form of data analysis. Measuring is now done through numbers, calculations, predictions and trends. Qualitative data are becoming more quantitative. Still, combined solutions give better results.

10) Creativity And Ideas: if you are part of a non-profit organization, you have to be a creative person. In order to write great projects, you have to think of amazing ideas. These ideas need to be:

1) Innovative;
2) with clear goals;
3) interesting for the audience;
4) inspiring;
5) measurable;
6) creative.

Every entrepreneur needs to think of great and innovative ideas in order to remain competitive on the market. Creativity in business is important, but not in every aspect of it. When it comes to promotion and media, creativity is the winner.

Instead Of Key Takeaways: I was a member of non-profit organizations for many years. Most of my skills I owe to the period of active community engagement. There I learnt: how to handle small and big groups of people; how to plan & write a project; how to plan time & money; how to communicate with stakeholders; how to search for funds & sponsors; and the most important thing - how to be human and care for the people.

Image courtesy: Google Image Search


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