Whilst there are a large numbers of organisations within the Charity Sector which simply just get by or sadly don’t make it, it’s easy to look around and see a great deal who, not only thrive, but whose names become synonymous with their cause.

Private Sector and the Charity Sector

Emotional engagement is the big thing. Great talent doesn’t look to work in the not-for-profit sector for the big wages and the generous expense accounts. They join for a cause, work arduously for it, and often, when things are perhaps not going well, dig in and stay for it. They believe in the charity mission and their belief drives loyalty.

A private business can offer the same amount of engagement with its strategy and mission if it simply makes its vision clear, simple and measurable. If a brand has a clear message that it’s mission is to make, for instance, the quickest, easiest, fastest, most flexible version of its product and seems to care less about the bottomline and more about the quality of what it delivers, it’s easy to jump on board and get excited.

The problem is often that private sector companies don’t commit entirely to a mission. Whilst a charity might exclaim ‘our mission is to cure cancer’, a private company is more likely to mumble: ‘our mission is to create the lightest travel laptop..if it sells well.’

It just doesn’t have the same appeal. The attraction of the most successful companies of our time is that they seem to care far more about the process than the financial result: think Apple and Google. It’s this care that sees people clambering to work for them.

Winning charitable organisations are willing to adapt. Gone are the days when leadership and targets are dirty words in the not-for-profit sector. Successful charities now operate business models very closely mirroring the private sector. They have realised the traditional flaws in their industry and altered their operating model to suit. How many private sector companies do that?

Following years of working with disparate groups of volunteers and trying to attract talent for lower than average salaries, the charity sector is used to offering flexible working solutions. This may include home-working, hot-desking or flexible hours but, either way, it shows a deep-rooted trust of the people it employs. It also means that it doesn’t miss out on great talent and skill sets from a diverse range of demographics who perhaps can’t work full-time or permanently in an office; for example women returners.

Charities, for the most part, are full of pride and camaraderie. In many private companies, the various departments operate their own profit and loss and budgets. Without a very clear goal or feeling of solidarity, this can create a tug of-war effect with departments working against, rather than for, each other.

Whilst some charities may operate the same model, the specific goals for each department would rarely overshadow the greater cause and raisin d’etre. This is called unity and private businesses would do well to replicate it.