If an individual embodies an entrepreneurial spirit, they are confident, curious, and creative. They’re an extremely self-motivated problem solver who loves to discover new and better ways of doing things. They never settle for average if excellence is within reach. They own their ideas, their actions, and whatever happens as a result.
Doesn’t this sound like the type of person you’d want on your team? And yet sometimes these attributes are stunted by an organization’s culture. The nonprofit arena needs to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit now more than ever. Let’s look at some enterprising tactics that can help achieve your purpose and transform your organization.
Create a culture that supports enterprising thought. When I took over as the president and CEO of the Nevada Donor Network, it was one of the poorest performing organ procurement organizations in the country, largely due to its culture. Complacency, siloed communication, and inefficiencies stamped out any entrepreneurial energy that team members exhibited. We needed to make significant widespread changes for any pioneering attitudes to thrive or even survive!
If your team members aren’t already displaying an entrepreneurial spirit, that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t possess one. This type of creative thinking must be encouraged throughout the entire organization, from the administrative leadership and board members at the top all the way down. It’s a matter of culture. All leaders, board members, and stakeholders must understand the value of entrepreneurial thinking, as well as exhibit, encourage, and reward it.
Use what you’ve got! Entrepreneurship, often associated with the business world, finds a natural place in the nonprofit sector when translated as a mindset rather than an economic pursuit. In many ways a charitable organization is similar to any other company. For example, both have a mission or purpose to achieve and a finite amount of resources available to do so.
While resources are often equated with ample funding, there are many other non-monetary possibilities waiting to be discovered. That’s exactly what the entrepreneurial spirit is all about, doing the best you can by harnessing all available resources. While more financial resources would be ideal—ingenuity, adaptability, and creative problem solving can often lead to solutions that might not have been thought of without the obstacle of scarcity.
Look for opportunities everywhere. Partnerships are some of the greatest resources available to organizations. Collaborating allows partners to share best practices, pool available resources, and collectively drive social change in ways that would be challenging to achieve individually. When the goal is to do good, the effort can be easily shared with like-minded organizations, businesses, and even government agencies to yield major results.
Mutually beneficial partnerships can be found all over your community and even the world, sometimes in the most unexpected places. Even if there’s not a feasible way to partner with a specific group, just the act of brainstorming whether or not something could work often brings noteworthy ideas bubbling to the surface. Considering unconventional solutions fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and gives people the permission and platform to share even the “crazy ideas” without fear.
Question the status quo. Just because things are being done one way doesn’t mean that’s the best way. Entrepreneurs are always looking for superior methods to yield better results. An organization’s ability to self-critique and pivot is crucial to maintaining success over time. While both feedback and change can be uncomfortable, they’re absolutely necessary. The status quo can only stay relevant for so long.
Encourage your team to speak up if they notice established ways of doing things that are inefficient, ineffective, redundant, harmful, etc. It’s critical to reward those who offer constructive criticism and include them in the solution. Again, actively creating a top-down culture where entrepreneurial ideas are openly exchanged and celebrated is the most effective way to foster creative problem solving throughout an organization.