Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Guest Column

7 Ways to Manage our Cultural and Religious centers as a Social Enterprise!


The world of 'Not-for-Profit' (NFP) management or 'Charity Management' in the Indian context was introduced to me quite early. I started to pick up these words from conversations in my father's drawing room, and till date, I have seen many forms of this miraculous concept in my life, across the political, social and religious spectrum. On the one hand, I have seen extremely well managed, impactful results of NFP programs, but on the other hand, I've come across amazing causes that were incompetently executed.

Just to clarify, the only difference between a ‘For-Profit’ enterprise and a ‘Not-For-Profit’ is that in a NFP all profits remain in the company and are not distributed among the stakeholders. Otherwise, everything else remains same. The vision, mission and operations need to be managed as professionally as in a for-profit company.

Most Indian community projects or NFP organizations are driven by passionate people, whereas most American NFP organizations are driven by processes and piloted by people with passion. The common notion in India, or of Indian community-based projects, is that it is all about that one ‘torchbearer’, a magical personality who takes the most pain to make the project successful. But this approach becomes a roadblock to long-term sustainability.

Here are some ideas you can consider applying if you run one or be a part of one.

1. Create an organization charter

Document the mission and vision of the NFP clearly just like any other for-profit business. Remember, the best not-for-profits in the world are profitable social ventures. The founders of the NFP should spend time in creating this document and come up with the ideas, strategies and programs they’d like to see implemented. Creating a strong charter will help attract like-minded intellect to the organization in the future.

2. Set a budget for paying management fee

Instead of a purely ‘president’ and ‘secretary’ driven culture, NFP’s must have a reasonable budget (including a contingency plan) to hire either a management staff or a company, to run programs, events and fundraisers in a professional manner. There are several management companies, which can run projects on contingency fee approach. Anywhere between 20 to 30 percent is a good budget to pay the staff or management company to play this role. The goal here is to achieve self-sustainability by using a professional paid staff, and believe me; this move will pay for itself!

3. Outsource daily management

Most NFP’s founders and board members make the mistake of spending time doing things, which could easily be outsourced, like event management, catering food preparations, marketing or office management.

4. Provide a quality experience for donors and volunteers

Don’t use your NFP status to cut corners, or to make a case for lack of funds. For example, if you are charging a fee from your members or donors for an event where food will be served, make sure you order good quality food, instead of serving cheap food which may seem insulting to the donors or members. If you have a limited budget, don’t serve food at the event.

5. Run it like a profitable business organization

Ensure that all the profit of the NFP stays in the organization to create future programs and pay salary to the management staff. Spend money on creating an army of human assets and volunteers rather than building ‘in memoriam’ structures and halls that don’t serve the community.

I have seen huge temple building or community halls all around United States, created by funds donated by rich immigrants and their heirs, but the management of these institutions is in the hands of leaders who are not ready to leave, and nor are they willing to accept a change in the organizational structure.

6. Focus on being self-sustainable

If you create professionally-run NFP programs and showcase tangible community benefits generated from the funds raised, you will start to build a loyal base of donors and volunteers (I prefer to call them human assets), and that’s what will make your cause self-sustainable.

I had the opportunity to see, an Indian community-led, NFP based in Silicon Valley by the name of India Culture Center. The organization has a dynamic charter and is run by a professional paid staff. The infrastructure has been self-sustainable for many years and does not require repeat fundraising to maintain.

7. Not for profit is the business of social change, and not for social gains

Those who feel that they can achieve fame by leading a cause often end up making a mockery for themselves or make things difficult for others. Be aware that NFP is a business of making an impact on lives of others; therefore, you should have venture into it with a clear intention of giving back.

On a final note, if you lead an NFP, or aspire to start one, I highly recommend reading the book “Building Social Business - The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs” by Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Award winner 2006. It’s a book that I could relate to and draws inspiration from as an entrepreneur, investor and a philanthropist.

Kunal Jain, founder of Not-for-profit TiE Tampabay and Practiceforces, can be reached at kunalj@practiceforces.com or call (727) 499-0358.

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