How successful businesses and nonprofits are alike.

Nonprofits are, in a number of ways, different from businesses. However, there are five significant ways in which successful nonprofits and successful businesses are alike.

1) They are mission-driven

All successful nonprofits “stick to their knitting.” In other words, they make sure that each and every thing that they do is aligned with the mission of the organization. The highest functioning nonprofits keep that mission in front of them at all times and refer to it with each and every decision.

Many businesses focus on day-to-day strategy and tactics, without regard to what the overall mission of the business might be. It’s a common belief that the main purpose of a business is to create a profit. Highly successful businesses, like successful nonprofits, have a higher purpose. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, said “if you’re driven only by the pursuit of wealth and fame, you’ve got your priorities in the wrong order, and you don’t stand much of a chance of making it in the long term. On the other hand, if you boldly put purpose over profit, the latter will follow the former.”

2) They are client-focused

In the same way that excellent organizations keep their mission in mind, they also keep their clients or customers in mind. It’s not uncommon for a business or nonprofit to make decisions for the convenience of the people who work in the organization, rather than for the benefit of those the organization aspires to serve. Successful organizations — businesses and nonprofits — constantly ask “what’s in the best interest of our clients and how can we serve them better?”

3) They build strong, collaborative partnerships

The most effective businesses and nonprofits know the power of working with others. Individuals and organizations have varied talents, skills, and perspectives. Partnerships between and among organizations become stronger than the sum of the parts. As Helen Keller suggested, “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

4) They build community

The best of businesses, along with the best of nonprofits, contribute greatly to the general health and welfare of the community. They function as meeting places, provide information on community issues, host fundraisers for community projects, and interact in many other ways to make the community a better place to live.

5) They are passionate about what they do

The people who work in highly successful businesses and nonprofits aren’t simply doing a job. They live and breathe the work they do — they are extremely passionate about what they contribute to the greater good.

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