During Impact Week (April 17–21, 2017), whose theme is Purpose + Profit, UCLA Anderson is highlighting stories of mission-driven careers, companies and projects that fulfill unmet needs in sectors from e-commerce to cleantech.
By Jamie Nichols (FEMBA ’18)
I’m going to go out on a limb by suggesting two ideas about the nonprofit and social service sectors: 1) There are plenty of well-intended, poorly run nonprofits whose extremely admirable missions prevent them from going under; 2) most nonprofit professionals have a chip on their shoulder about how comparably straightforward measuring value and success seems in the for-profit realm. This can lead to a near-fanatical emphasis on fundraising as a proxy for impact or to a reduction of value solely in for-profit terms (whether it be service dollars provided, units served or gross income).
So, how can we actually measure meaningful impact in the long term, and how is this reconciled with the more immediate returns promised to donors? The focus areas of many nonprofits and impact-oriented firms ― for example, education, health and the environment ― are long-term investments by design, and the ROI can take years or decades to be realized. Is it irresponsible to dismiss short-term metrics in favor of longer term faith? Is the nonprofit sector responding to poorly designed systems better addressed by the government and for-profit market?