Management in the Not for Profit Organization

Dedicated to Exploring the Philosophies and Techniques of Management in the Non-Profit Sector

Which Management Model is the Right Management Model for Non-Profits?

Which shell is a winner

Six Sigma, Lean Thinking, Zero Defect, Management by Objective, etc. etc. etc.

As long as managers look for magic answers, magicians will appear to appease them.  The quick easy answer is always just a book away.


Some of these contain a few useful ideas, or a new way of looking at an old idea.  But many are as likely to be dangerous to your organization as they are to help it.


Authors such as Stephen Covey and Spencer Johnson can be very interesting—even entertaining.  In fact, many of the ideas that they espouse in their books and seminars can be useful.  In the right time and place they might actually be the magic pill that your organization needs.  But how do you know which one to use—if any?


Here are a few rules of thumb:


Choose substance over style.  The authors named above have style.  But do you want a good writer or a good theoretician?  You will get a better understanding of management by reading Peter Drucker and W. Edwards Deming.  They are lower on entertainment value, but their value to your organization might be immense.


Choose a model that emphasizes product.  Most not-for-profits have highly vulnerable consumers.  Caveat emptor is not a principle that fits.  Therefore, we the management assume the role of their protectors.  This is a moral judgment, but I will argue its accuracy with all of my strength.  We must ensure a quality product.


If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  When a model promises quick, easy answers then you are either tired or desperate if you quickly impose it upon your organization.  Rigor.  There is no substitute.  Remember, it’s someone else’s money that you are playing with.  In some organizations, it’s someone else’s life.  Avoid the easy answer.  It is worth the extra work.


Make sure it can stand the light of day.  The community has certain expectations of not-for-profits.  Honor these.


It is true that your not-for-profit organization IS A BUSINESS.  It is also true that it is NOT ONLY A BUSINESS.  In some ways this fact makes it more difficult to manage a not-for-profit, but in this writer’s opinion, it can also make it more rewarding.