Why Can’t NGOs Be More Business-like?

HOW often have you heard that non profits need to be “more business like”? Or witnessed the awe that greets people who cross over from the private sector to a job in an NGO? Despite the global financial meltdown, relentless reports of corporate malfeasance and catastrophic breakdowns in governance at some of the most respected businesses, the corporate sector is continually held up as a model of efficiency, effectiveness, leadership and innovation to non-profits in India and around the world.

If only, we are told, we would adopt ‘corporate best practices’ in strategy, systems, structure, skills, staffing, governance and, increasingly, even style, we might finally break out of the mindsets that keep too many NGOs small, slow and starving.

With corporate support promising volumes of new resources, NGOs across India are scrambling to acquire the board members, metrics, skills and language that will, they hope, unlock their slice of the CSR pie.

It’s been almost two decades since I escaped the corporate sector to find purpose, wholesomeness, significance and, yes, learning on the non-profit side of the fence.

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