Rise Above The Not-For-Profit Rivalry – 3 Ways To Be A Healthy Competitor In The NFP Space

You know the best thing about being an only child? No competition.

You get everything you want – when you want. None of this comprising or debating or forming a well though out argument to why you should be considered for a turn to play with the fire truck
– sorry, iPad.

When you have siblings, however, you are in a constant battle to gain attention from the parents. Sibling rivalry isn’t the healthiest version of competition. Most of time you feel negatively about your sibling successes as opposed to being motivated or inspired (Yes, even when your older). You expect attention rather than earn it.

The eldest sibling is normally the first to step above and beyond this tedious squabble. They no longer look to the parents for handouts and become self-sustainable and leave the younger siblings to battle it out.

What’s this got to do with NFPs?

NFPs have 600,000 siblings in Australia alone and sibling rivalry is rife.

So how do you rise above the sibling rivalry whilst still being a keen competitor?

The operative word is “healthy”. Stop bringing others down to pull yourself up. It leads to a fractured, distrustful sector. We understand that many NFPs limp from grant to grant and survival tactics must be employed to stay alive but there is a better way.

How can I become a healthy competitor?

Anyone is the for-profit sector will tell you, healthy competition is good for business, it shakes of complacency, improves performance and inspires innovation. For the NFP sector, it can be a driver for you to achieve more growth and success – not because you are driven to win or lose – but because you are doing your best at something that you care about.

It is important to realise NFPs aren’t your only competition.

It is becoming an integral part of private sector business to adopt some kind of good arm, a social cause, mission or a partner. This is more a demand from the market rather than initiative within the organisation, it is a necessary component for businesses to be seen on the competitive stage. Consumers are more likely to choose a for-profit with a social mission over a for-profit without one.So let’s have a peer through our commercial looking glass for a moment: For-Profits base their existence around healthy competition (well at least sometimes). They contemplate competition when they eat, sleep and work. They spend money, time and resources on working out how to compete. They hire large teams of skilful people that dedicate their careers to the simple concept of, how do I get them to choose me? It is an extensive process. But a crucial one if you not only want to survive but also thrive in an industry.

Competing with for-profits is essential as their social mission is only a small part of their company. NFPs have the resources and dedication to make more impact and consumers should be choosing them over for-profits.

So here are 3 steps to becoming a healthy competitor in both sectors:

Step 1: Find Your Unique Selling Point (USP)

A good first step on this journey to healthy competition is to work out your USP. You need to ask yourself why you’re the best person to be solving this problem. Why are you more equipped and better suited then the similar NFP down the road? This thinking will lend itself to identifying the position you occupy in the social space. Then it’s time to think about the position you’d like to occupy. To get there you will most likely need to be a self-sustainable organisation, no longer lining up for government handouts.

Step 2: Don The Commercial Lens

Acknowledge and embrace the fact that an NFP is a company. Put a business mindset over everything you do, every decision you make. Ensure that your expenses are not exceeding your revenue – a basic business principle that is the first step towards sustainability. Operational efficiency is also important, ensuring the cogs of your organisations are working. Be picky about who you hire and if your budget allows it fill those skill gaps. This ultimately leads to thinking about building a sustainable business model.

Step 3: Find and acknowledge your Target Market

Follow in the steps of your for-profit cousins and develop a strategy around your customers. Treat your donors as customers – because they are. Like any consumer they must be found, courted, convinced and retained. Then segment your market – differentiate between your beneficiaries, your investors, your partners and your donors (customers). Once you nail down where your market sits it will be much easier to have the conversations you want to be having.
So play nice.
Stop fighting over who gets the front seat and put yourself behind the steering wheel.

If you are interested in learning more about business strategy and sustainable business models

Download our Whitepaper on The Sustainable NFP


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