For Impact over Not-for-Profit

For Impact over Not-for-Profit

Share This Post

“We have to stand for things, not against things.” —Simon Sinek

In this video, Simon Sinek raises an interesting point about not-for-profit organizations. The term “not-for-profit” is simply a tax delineation that grew to widespread adoption as a way of referring to social sector organizations to distinguish them from for-profit businesses. However, the term doesn’t adequately describe what the organizations do, just what they don’t do. Sinek offers a solution: evolve the language. Refer to social sector organizations for what they do, “for impact” instead of what they don’t do, “not-for-profit.” His point is clear, “we have to stand for things, not against things.”

A quick web scan shows that for impact organizations (see how easy that is) do refer to what they do and the difference they make within their brand identity language. For instance, the ASPCA is for the prevention of cruelty to animals. The American Red Cross is for helping those affected by disaster. Teach for America is for expanding educational opportunity. Charity Water is for bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. The YMCA is for strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  Perhaps it will be a fairly seamless shift to discard the old “not-for-profit” label in favor of the new “for impact” descriptor.

I was recently involved in a strategic planning meeting where we were discussing potential priority areas. As we were debating pros and cons of a few options, a question was raised about ROI. It went something like this, “I can clearly see the ROI on the first two options in terms of increased revenue but the third option doesn’t have an ROI. It would need to be funded  in some other way. I know this is a not-for-profit organization but don’t we still need to see an ROI?” Someone quickly chimed in explaining that revenue is not the only ROI we work to achieve. If we invest resources – human, financial, equipment, etc. – in a program that changes lives, there is a return on our investment. It’s simply measured in something other than money. As Sinek points out in the video: “If your objective is to rescue kittens out of trees, then you better be profitable. You better be rescuing more kittens out of trees this month than you did last month.”

Of course, for impact organizations do need to be fiscally healthy and have strong, sustainable funding sources in order to be profitable in the impact they are working to achieve. The difference is money is a means to an end and not the end itself.

The next time I’m asked what I do, I’ll explain that I create and deliver solutions to advance the missions of for impact organizations. I can’t wait to hear the next question, “what’s a for impact organization?”

Kathy Kuras
+ posts

More To Explore

A YMCA sign painted on a building

How to Build a New YMCA or Community Center Facility

If your community is looking to build a new YMCA or community center, believe it or not, there is a science to building them right!  Too many communities have jumped into construction without consulting the data.  Data can help you avoid costly mistakes down the

Read More »
Campers hiking through the woods at a summer camp

How to Prepare Your Camp for the Post-Pandemic Summer

Like many industries out there today, the resident camping industry was hit hard during the pandemic.  Even now that we are through the pandemic (hopefully), camps are struggling to get back to making a difference in our children’s lives. The good news is, in most

Read More »

Do You Want To Boost Your Business?

Connect with our team

Scroll to Top

"*" indicates required fields

Step 1 of 5