Fast Company, Non-Profit Style

Peter Rees’s piece on corporatizing nonprofits reminds me of one of the best run, and most agile corporations I have ever come into contact with – Opportunity Enterprises (OE).

OE is a not-for-profit social service organization, with an annual budget of about $10 million, located in northwest Indiana. It serves a wide variety of the needs of people who are severely mentally or physically challenged. To maximize resource it uses TQM principles, and operates in an Open Book Management fashion with everyone knowing exactly where fund comes from, what things cost, and why decisions are made. CEO Gary Mitchell and his leadership team have done a good job of turning social service people into business people, and MBAs into social service providers.

They operate in a very tough market, with government funding constantly shifting, very public oversight, and shifting client needs. Yet the company’s flexibility and responsiveness allow it to rapidly develop and launch new initiatives in response to emerging needs and last minute changes in government funding or rules.

One of the more unique management tools OE uses is their idea system. Not only do they get lots of great ideas from their employee, but their clients often prove to have some of the most insightful ideas – because they offer a perspective management and workers cannot provide.

Whenever someone bashes business professionals or MBAs for not being socially minded and managing with values, or social service providers for not understanding finance and business realities, I point to OE to show him or her that it does not have to be that way.

While it has become popular in some quarters to bash MBA’s, OE hires them and instills them with a mission other than maximizing shareholder (and their own) wealth.FCS