It Pays to Operate Like a Business Editorial

2005 by Rich Avanzino


In an earlier editorial, "Take Advantage of Your Website," I tried to make the case that donors today want proof of a charity's effectiveness before they give.

Here's a true story that supports that argument.

Last week, I got a telephone call from an older gentleman in another state who had made a fortune as an entrepreneur. The reason for his call: he wanted to give his entire multi-million dollar estate to Maddie's Fund.

This man had originally intended to donate to local animal welfare organizations, but he had done his homework and was disenchanted by what he found.

According to him, the local animal welfare scene was characterized by two different kinds of groups. One type was the small, volunteer-based rescue group, which he categorized as dysfunctional. Although they worked really hard, they had no plan, had a high degree of burnout and it was all they could do to take care of immediate tasks - in his view, not a good investment.

The other kind of group was the more established traditional shelter. While this group was dedicated and enthusiastic and had credible leadership, his fear here was that the organization would fall apart when the leadership changed because it didn't have a solid business orientation to sustain its work.

He called Maddie's Fund because he believed in our methodology. He had studied our website, looked at our grant guidelines and reviewed the progress of our funded projects. What he liked was our goal orientation, planning requirement, performance measurement, consistency, accountability and transparency.

Because we discourage people from giving us money, we suggested he reconsider and make his donation locally. We also referred him to other foundations and trusts.

I have to say, however, that the thinking process of and the conclusions drawn by this successful businessman were very interesting. Based on his example, it would certainly seem to hold true that it pays to operate like a business.


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