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An Investment in Building Tomorrow’s Nonprofit Leaders

By Tom Watson on December 5, 2007No Comment

Professionals from our organization, BBYO, which helps connect Jewish teens to their heritage and history, will soon be applying to be in the initial cadre of 20 BBYO professionals earning fully-funded Masters of Business Administration degrees from a top 20 business school. If you thought that this was a perk you had to go to the corporate world to get, think again. This MBA program was made possible by innovative grant work, which focused on investing in human resources, knowing that with good employees in our court, everything else would fall into place.
“What a wonderful opportunity for the often under-resourced world of non-profits to see an organization that is really investing in its employees, knowing that such an investment will benefit the organization and its entire sector down the road,” said Audrey Alvarado, Ph.D., the Executive Director of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. 

Why invest in human resources? With so many not-for-profits being people businesses, the number one factor in determining whether they meet their missions is the hiring and retaining of qualified professionals. When our leadership looked at how it could put together a package to attract the best and brightest, offer a new skill set to its young professionals and better serve our constituency in the long term, investing time and money into human resources was the obvious answer. 

The need that this MBA program is addressing in the nonprofit communal sector is no secret, and the idea enticed the Jim Joseph Foundation of San Francisco to make an initial investment of $2.5 million. According to Dr. Chip Edelsberg, Executive Director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, BBYO is especially well-positioned to achieve success with this initiative due to its ability to recruit from its impressive database of alumni, some 250,000 strong; adapt a for-profit model and capitalize on its own resources to initiate annual salary increases aimed at improving retention; and provide a flexible work schedule conducive to the pursuit of concurrent academic and professional tracks.

Think beyond the norms of traditional fundraising when assessing your organization’s needs, and consider what it needs internally.  Also, finding a foundation to invest may not be as hard as some might think, as many foundations around the country focus on education and professional development. While most nonprofits automatically gear their grant work towards outreach, programming and expansion, consider next time turning the tables and looking into your internal efforts and strengthening your infrastructure.

Now, BBYO has secured a partnership with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and is the school’s first non-profit partner, allowing the university to form a relationship with a worldwide organization.  Other nonprofits should take this investment in human relations as an example of how to re-think nonprofit employment issues.

According to Audrey Alvarado, “BBYO is really issuing a challenge for other organizations to be creative in their opportunities for professional development and to successfully run their non-profits like a business.”

We can now say that 20 of our best and brightest professionals will be staying with the organization for at least the next three years  —  a powerful statement that, if all non-profits could say it, would change the future face of the non-profit world.

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