Twenty-five years ago, all a person needed to head up a nonprofit organization was a great deal of passion and commitment to the cause or mission. Times have changed and with more and more people making nonprofit management their career, as well as increased competition among growing agencies, it has become necessary for nonprofit organizations to be run more like businesses and companies. This means increasing expectations for professionalism among the staff.
It is not uncommon for nonprofit executives to come from other areas of the business world. Finance officers are expected to be well-versed in fiscal management at a corporate level and other members of the executive staff of even smaller nonprofits often have advanced degrees and business experience. There are those who believe this has had a positive impact on nonprofit management while still others think it has taken the “heart” and commitment out of the running of these organizations.
In reality, there are some key areas that have been impacted by the increased professionalism: the relationship between executive staff and board has changed over recent years. In many organizations, there is tension between an executive staff that is well-educated in business and management practices and a board of directors that may be more interested in programs than fiscal operations. Staff may have a hard time letting a volunteer board guide the finances of an organization or agency when they feel more qualified.
Additionally, the impact of increased professionalism has caused increased expectations for compensation. While nonprofits of old where able to exist on a shoestring budget, it costs more to pay salaries and benefits of a more educated and more experienced staff. Professional staff expect to be treated like professionals'”decent wages and working environments, vacations and other perks. This has forced even small nonprofits to increase budgets to meet the challenges of competing for (and keeping) good staff.
Increased professionalism has brought growth overall to the philanthropic field, but it has had its growing pains. As expectations increase, so do budgets and bottom-lines to meet the challenges of matching qualifications to impact.