In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.– Proverbs 14:23
An old newspaper editor once claimed that a charitable organization should call itself a not-for-profit, the point being that it doesn’t exist to make a profit. He said the term “non-profit” could apply to both charities and businesses. After all, there are businesses that despite their best-laid plans, turn out to be non-profits.
In the editor’s somewhat cantankerous insistence on precise language, there was a lesson for charities: just like a business, if you want to succeed you have to have more at least as much money coming in or going out.
There is a good deal of talk these days about the importance of charitable organizations operating on business principles. That means paying attention to the budgets, effectively managing people, and understanding terms like ROI.
According to a recent article in Inc.,the successful nonprofits of the future must operate like innovative business. And the magazine recommends five steps in the process:
- Think like a business. How would you function if all your funding sources suddenly disappeared?
- Redefine “customer.” In addition to those you serve, consider who could become a paying
- Package up offerings. Think creatively about what you “sell,” whether a product, service, event, or experience.
- Don’t go it alone. Innovation is about partnerships.
- Create a sustainable business model. Measure your organization like a business.
Forbes has a nonprofit council for senior executives of nonprofits (membership by invitation only). The council has offered 12 ways for a nonprofit to operate more like a for-profit:
- Raise Funds And Save Money
- Speak The Same Language
- Focus On ROI
- Build Models Of Earned Income
- Run Your NonprofitLike A Startup
- Generate Revenue Through Corporations
- Don’t Ignore Expenses
- Match Costs And Benefits
- Make The Mission Itself Profitable
- Make Investments In Member Needs
- Use Data To Make Decisions
- Be An Ecosystem Warrior
In typically direct fashion, Fast Company offers a three-point plan for improving the performance of a nonprofit:
- Impact through purpose
- Impact through talent
- Impact through innovation
Yes, there are many wonderful recommendations and lots of talk about applying business principles to nonprofits. But at Regnum Christ, two men are doing more than talking. They have made it part of their mission to coach localities and apostolates on how to be more effective, be better stewards of the resources they use – and thereby better fulfill the Regnum Christi mission to bring more souls to Christ.
Jeff Garrett of Omaha, is a cradle Catholic and member of Regnum Christi since 1999. He has been involved in adult education and formation, pastoral counsel, communion to the homebound, a member of the Archbishop’s Campaign for Development, and an ambassador for Cloisters on the Platte. In other words, this is an involved Catholic man. And you may have met him on the Regnum Christi website; he is the force behind The Regular Catholic Guy Show.
Jeff also is married; wife Donna is on the Regnum Christi Territorial Council. They have four grown children.
He also has been in the corporate world for more than 30 years, leading large and small sales teams, working in start-ups and in large corporations. These day, he does executive coaching helping men in the areas of work/life balance, leadership, CliftonStrengths, business vision, business planning and life planning.
“There are lots of different challenges in localities that I have seen in RC or experienced in the business world,” Jeff said. “The job of Section Director and Locality Director can be overwhelming and requires a lot of different skills. I was inspired to offer my experience to other localities – in addition to be involved locally
“One of the key things we do in RC is to help form leaders,” Jeff explained. “I feel this apostolate assists in helping the locality leadership develop and learn.”
So…if you a leader in a locality and would like a bit of business counseling, Jeff is your man. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he is one of your men. That’s because he has a partner in this apostolate, Atlanta’s Tom Clements.
Tom Clements was raised Catholica and has been involved with nonprofits for more than 20 years. He worked fulltime for Regnum Christi for three years, then spent nine years on the Movement’s Financial Advisory Council. These days, Tom offers his wisdom as a consultant to various apostolates and localities that are looking to improve their business acumen.
“Under the locality model we implemented a few years ago, we handed many assets and responsibility over to the localities,” Tom recalled. “But we didn’t have the resources to train people locally and realized we had a huge need for strategic and management consulting with apostolate sand locality leaders. That’s what I’m available to do.”
Tom, who admits he can be a bit of a contrarian, said the success of Regnum Christi in North America lies squarely with the willingness and ability of lay people to assume the leadership of localities and apostolates. That means lay people filling the management roles and minimizing the amount of time priests and consecrated women have to spend in jobs that take them away from their roles as spiritual advisers and evangelizers.
“As lay members of Regnum Christi, we have to relieve our religious and consecrated members of worrying about the business of running operations,” Tom said. “We have to keep in mind that the highest and best use of a priest’s time is providing spiritual direction, preaching retreats, and offering the sacraments. It isn’t going over balance sheets and other business work that a competent lay person can so.”
Tom spoke here from personal experience; he treasures his Legionary spiritual director.
Tom also suggested that apostolate and localities be prudent about putting new assets on the books, noting that Regnum Christi has experience the discomfort of high debt and worked hard to achieve a solid financial structure.
“We’ve made incredible progress over the past few years,” Tom said. “I believe with the strong efforts of lay, consecrated, and religious taking their proper roles as a team, the future is really bright.”
And if you want to get a feel for what Tom the consultant might tell you, check out what Tom the author said in his book: HOW TO RUN A NONPROFIT, The Go-to Guide for all Nonprofit Managers.
Tom and Jeff both believe they – and others like them – can help Regnum Christi achieve what business guru Peter Drucker said of a nonprofit three decades ago: “It’s product is a changed human being.”