Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Blurring the Lines between Non-Profit and For-Profit.

Last night I attended a very interesting panel discussion on the need for more interaction between for-profits and non-profits. Three women, who all had worked in both the for-profit world and the non-profit worlds talked about the importance of the intersection of the two, because both would benefit. The panel discussed everything from the different ways for-profits can help out non-profits to ways non-profits can become more like for-profits. One interesting fact that I learned is that $295 billion is donated to non-profits each year, but only 4% of that is from corporations. This statistic is changing as corporate social responsibility is becoming a hot topic and companies such as the Gap or Motorola are selling products that benefit certain organizations, but still much more could be done in the for-profit world to help out the non-profit world.

One of the best things about last night's discussion was that it was sponsored by CampusCATALYST - a new organization started by Northwestern students that (in its mission statement) states that it "seeks to direct the innovation, ingenuity, and problem solving skills of America's future leaders towards community development by cultivating a rich academic and social entepreneurship experience for college students and tangible solutions for nonprofits." This winter, CampusCATALYST will put on a seminar at Northwestern where students will become consultants to non-profits in Evanston and help them work out organizational issues and come up with innovative ways to make the non-profit more successful.

A question that I posed to the panel was how could business schools become more involved in helping out non-profits. There is an issue of business schools staying away from teaching about non-profit management because it's not "glamorous" enough (in the words of one of the speakers who was trying to start a non-profit management program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.) However, Kellogg School of Business Management - Northwestern's business school has been instrumental in having business students be consultants to non-profits and offering a degree in non-profit management. I have discussed the wealth of opportunities that non-profits could offer to business schools and that business schools could offer to non-profit in previous blog posts. All of the panelists agreed with this assertion and hoped that students such as those who attended last night's panel discussion would be advocates for more non-profit management programs at business schools and more opportunities at business schools for students to work with non-profit.

A great way that business people could get involved in non-profits is at the Center for Economic Progress, where people involved in the financial and accounting world can help low-income families become financially savvy. A fantastic program they have, that begins in January is a program where people take courses to become volunteers to help low-income families fill out their tax forms. A lot of these families' tax forms are a lot more complicated than yours or mine and a lot of them qualify for Earned-Income Tax Credit, which can add up to a lot of money. Please visit their website to find out more.

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