| Ford Church

Competition and the Non-Profit Sector

Representing the Cottonwood Institute, I just came back from attending Community Ventures 2006, a professional development conference supported by The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County. During a session called Profit or Non-Profit: The Same Business Protocols Prevail, with Ira Nottonson and Joseph and Kathleen Contrino, a question was raised about competition in the non-profit sector.

As the number of non-profits continues to grow, demographics and laws continue to change, and financial resources become more scarce, I think we will see a shake out in the non-profit sector. A friend of mine predicted that to survive in the non-profit sector, organizations will have to collaborate, consolidate, or vacate.

Question: As the non-profit sector matures and utilizes for-profit business techniques, how will competition positively or negatively affect your non-profit organization? What do you think about competition in the non-profit sector?

Categories: Non-Profit Management

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2 Responses to “Competition and the Non-Profit Sector”

  1. Ford Church

    From an economic perspective, I think that competition is good in theory because it typically results in lower prices and better service for consumers. However, educational programs are already typically priced well below fair market value and many salaries in the non-profit sector are well below their for-profit counterparts. Competition is inevitable and it is already happening in our sector, but I think it will force many programs to collaborate or vacate. I feel that competition is a dirty word in the non-profit sector because we are all trying to save the world so why compete. However, I liked what Kathleen Contrino said yesterday when she said that non-profits must be innovative to survive.

  2. Emily Stewart

    I’m all for competition… Whether it is winning a Sunday pick up hockey game or in the grocery store when organic tomatoes are actually less expensive than their conventionally harvested brethren I feel like I’m rewarded for my effort, with a prize.

    The nonprofit has always been run in a competitive manner, albeit less articulated, it’s not a bad thing but it’s also nothing new. When your organization applies for a grant you are in competition for organizational sustainability, looking to win the proverbial tiara through support for services and infrastructure. There are winners and there are those that need to seek support elsewhere, we’ve all been there, thankfully the pot has traditionally been large enough that each organization gets what they need to ensure services to their constituents.

    The number of nonprofit organizations entering the marketplace each year shows that there are needs not being met by other sectors. These new organizations outpace the resources available to sustain the sector therefore organizations need to show their donors that they are credible and deserving of support. How can your organization set itself apart from the other nonprofits and create a sustainable solution to funding? Innovators have designed options to the above competition by developing strategies in social enterprise and partnerships between agencies that are mutually beneficial and break the traditional funding woes of many organizations. Hybrid profit/not-for-profit organizations are popping up in numbers. These organizations are less dependent on outside services for generating funds and can therefore focus on the mission. Creativity is one way to circumvent the competition and best serve constituents. It results in streamlined organizations that produce quality services while in the spotlight as trendsetters that live on the ‘bleeding edge’ of innovation. Maybe this drive towards innovation is the wake-up call the sector has needed to move from the traditional competition for funding towards a synergistic prize. Game on…


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