A few weeks ago, I met with a very successful nonprofit executive director and we spoke about the travesty with social entrepreneurs. We lack so many entrepreneurs in the nonprofit industry in comparison to the for-profit arena. Even though Dream Big Community Center hasn’t made it to the pinnacle we desire just yet, I wouldn’t want to face today’s obstacles of creating my nonprofit. My counterpart said something that hasn’t left me since that meeting, “… so many ideas are no longer pursued because it takes too much to launch and sustain a nonprofit in its infancy.”
How many social entrepreneurs are we losing to the for-profit marketplace?
In the last few weeks, I was thinking what deters professionals from coming into this industry. After a few thoughts, I realized my own frustrations. Then I thought about what keeps people wanting to climb the corporate ladder, and meshed them with what’s missing in our arena. Here are my three reasons:
Lack of Recognition – this is not a glorious job. Being a social entrepreneur is a lot of work, little pay, high expectations, and an unsurmountable amount of demand. There aren’t too many awards, especially if you compare it to their counterparts in the for-profit arena. However, the reward is seeing the differences in the lives that are helped because of your cause.
No Proper Education – you won’t find many college campuses with Introduction to Nonprofits classes. I don’t believe I know of a high school that teaches about nonprofits at all. Finding resources of how to be successful as a social entrepreneur is extremely difficult. It will mostly be on the job training and making TONS of mistakes. The best education is in not being afraid to ask questions.
Some Causes Aren’t Marketable – the most recognizable groups are the ones that have been around for 50+ years, or that you can easily relate to (e.g. – homelessness, animals, banking, sports, and disabilities). Unfortunately, it’s hard to make other things sexy (e.g. – healthy eating, reading, mental illness, gang related intervention and human trafficking). Marketing some of these agencies just simply cannot be done in 30 seconds, in a television commercial, or with a smile when you’ve helped someone for a testimonial.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to follow your dream. Your dream could be helping solve many problems in this world. It could also help someone live their dreams. Social entrepreneurs are needed- become one today!
I write this because my business is personal. My struggles are for your gain. No strings attached.
Nathan A. Webster, MBA