Why entrepreneurs are needed in the nonprofit world: A conversation with Mike Servello Sr., Compassion Coalition founder and CEO, and Rachel Daughtry, Director of Agency Relations.
Rachel: Compassion Coalition has grown steadily and exponentially year after year since our inception, but it’s taken a lot of hard work on the part of our team. We always say that Compassion Coalition is entrepreneurial, can you explain how?
Mike: When we say entrepreneurial, we are describing seeing a need and creating a funding source to meet that need with the ultimate goal of becoming self-sustaining. We are describing thinking “outside the box,” the norm or status quo, and being innovative by creating funding sources based on what’s available to accomplish the mission. It means learning to take calculated risks. It means learning to not be limited by your environment, resources or the negativity of others, but to persist in finding a better way to accomplish your mission even if you fail or falter in the first few attempts. It means having a great vision or strategy, but most importantly, the discipline to execute and get it done. Many would-be entrepreneurs either don’t ever execute their plan or do it poorly and fail.
Rachel: Why do you think we need more entrepreneurs in the nonprofit sector?
Mike: Because the not-for-profit sector relies heavily on both government and private grants and donor gifts, both of which are competitive and often restricted to very specific needs. Setting budgets and forecasting vision can be extremely difficult if finances are in question or allocated to only a small portion of what you need to accomplish the mission.
Rachel: Entrepreneurism is not being cultivated in our younger generations as it once was, and is often not discussed at all. We were recently at a conference with Scott Nash, the founder of Mom’s Organic and he said, “entrepreneurism is a personality type.” Do you think that entrepreneurism can be taught?
Mike: I believe it can only be taught to people that are passionate about their mission and have specific goals for accomplishing something, they have to be mission-driven and willing to make personal sacrifices to see it accomplished.
Rachel: What can nonprofits do to cultivate more entrepreneurism throughout their programming?
Mike: Find people who are passionate about the mission and have creative meetings with successful entrepreneurs that are sympathetic to the cause.