Monday, May 21, 2001

Nonprofit-management leader to speak at NKU

Hesselbein says businesses can learn a lot

        Frances Hesselbein, a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Clinton, has had firsthand experience with the best practices of nonprofit management.

        A former chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA, today she is chairman of the board of governors of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.

        She speaks at “Securing the Future - Resource Development for Nonprofits,” a session planned from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Northern Kentucky University. The session at Greaves Hall on the campus of the university includes breakfast and a luncheon, costs $35 and is open to the public. For more information or to make reservations, call 572-5666.

        The event is presented by Leadership Cincinnati, an executive leadership development effort created by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. It is sponsored by Northern Kentucky University, the Chambers of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati United Way and Community Chest, Convergys, Federated Department Stores, Fifth Third Bank, GE Aircraft Engines, Procter & Gamble Co. and the Scripps Howard Foundation.

        She spoke recently with John Eckberg, Enquirer business reporter:

        QUESTION: What can private companies learn from nonprofits and the challenges that nonprofits have met and overcome?

        ANSWER: Peter Drucker has written extensively on this and says there are three great lessons business can learn from nonprofits. One is effectiveness of a board of directors. Number two is the power of mission and number three is the ability to mobilize and engage knowledge workers the way nonprofits mobilize and engage volunteers.

        Q: Which of those is the most important?

A: I think you would begin with mission. This is true in all sectors. We mobilize people around a mission because mission is why we do what we do. It's the reason for being. The most successful organization has a short, powerful and compelling mission statement that they hold before their people and is solely when that organization does what it does: the purpose, the reason for being.

        When an organization of any kind is mission-focused, the power of that mission builds and is a very potent force in building a cohesive and successful organization.

        Q: A challenge for all companies is to find a committed, experienced and a loyal work force. In recent years, the companies that marry their philanthropy with their work force have an appeal to the X and Y generations that is compelling to those workers. Is that a fair assessment?

A: Yes. It's fair and can be measured and demonstrated. Peter Drucker has a wonderful quote: When you have people in business who then move into the social sector or are engaged by having their own people as part of an initiative with a nonprofit, then that company and those people have moved from success to significance.

        Q: Moved from success to significance ... that's a nice phrase.

A: Yes, don't you love that? You see, whatever you want to call those generations, people today are looking for significance in their lives. They want significance and meaning beyond a paycheck.

        And one of the most valuable and powerful ways to provide this, I believe, is in these remarkable partnerships, alliances, collaborations where a nonprofit identifies a critical need in a community, finds a partner with a corporation and together they address this critical need.

        It's not the old, "I write checks, you do the work.' It is the people of the corporation and the nonprofit in partnership finding significance and satisfaction. They share a vision. They share a commitment and they share the satisfaction of being able to change lives.

        The 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in this country have a common bottom line: changing lives. When we do this, we build community.

        This is a great adventure for many people in corporations that feel it's their responsibility to move beyond the walls and partner with a nonprofit organization so together they address a particular community need.

        Q: Say you have a hardware store in a suburb of Cincinnati. They have a small payroll. How can that company find a nonprofit or a mission that will be compelling and appealing to the people who take home the paycheck each week?

A: It is not only the hardware store finding a nonprofit. It's how does a nonprofit move out and say, "This is what we do. We are meeting a need and we need your partnership.' Maybe that hardware store has a resource they can provide or people who can be part of a marvelous joint team.

        It is amazing. Size is not the deciding factor of success. It is shared commitment and shared resources and shared energy.

        Q: There's going to be more than one hard-boiled executive out there who's going to read this and say, "Awwww, it's just another thing to eat at my margins - take away my bottom line. We're facing rising advertising costs and swooning revenues, I can't afford this.'

A: He is also losing his best and brightest people, perhaps. One of the ways you keep a committed and energetic work force is to provide something beyond the paycheck.

        Q: What is it about the human condition - about how some people are hard-wired to do good?

A: I think it is part of the heart and spirit of the American people. It's our tradition since the early days of the country for people to help people. It's part of the culture of our country. It's part of the greatness of our country.


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