The Best Advice I Ever Received as a NFP CEO


From Chris Gandy

I left a senior role in the corporate sector to take up a CEO position in a relatively small not for profit in the mid 80’s

During my first week I meet with the organisation’s Chairman who himself was a senior executive of a large Australian company. He welcomed me on board and during our informal chat gave me advice about leading a not for profit which has resonated with me ever since.

Basically the advice was this:

“You can’t do it all, so be sure to bring in the best experts you can afford to help you when the organisation needs them”

Initially I was a little taken aback by this. Hey, I had just come from a position which had a budget 10 times the size of the one I was now managing; I was lecturing in the MBA program at the local University, I had the skills; and besides it was the 80’s and Gordon Gekko and his real life clones hadn’t hit the wall yet – so how difficult could this not for profit gig be?

It took me less than a year to find out!

Not wanting to get into a debate over which sector – the corporate or not for profit – is the more challenging. Suffice is to say they certainly are different – and the principal area of difference for me was, what I would call, the Resource Tap.

Whenever I turned to the Resource Tap in my corporate world out gushed what seemed like lashings of finance, HR, marketing, operations, research, logistical and planning resources to help with tasks, offer advice and share knowledge.

The Resource Tap in my not for profit role spluttered a trickle of committed and highly competent people who were multi-tasking and up to their neck with day to day issues. All system reviews and what I would describe as “development work” fell to me. As did the responsibility for maintaining my business knowledge base.

At first I politely ignored the advice and attempted to make up for this resource deficit myself. Eventually though, the major enemy that beat me was time.

Try as I may, I just couldn’t split my molecules. And while I had the skills to do a number of projects many had to be shelved due to lack of time. Also, I began to realise the true value of interacting with subject matter experts on a regular basis. They kept me  up to date and my own skills honed. Remember this was pre internet and I had to find time to do my own research to keep up.

I needed to take the Chairman’s advice – I did and the organisation didn’t look back!

Fast forward to 2013 and here I was coaching and mentoring a new brigade of not for profit CEO’s and I found myself giving the same advice as I had received in the 80’s

“You can’t do it all, so be sure to bring in the best experts you can afford to help you when the organisation needs them”

Most of the CEO’s I worked with agreed but a common response was…

“OK, but how do I find an affordable expert?”

After being asked this question for the umpteenth time I decided to do something about it and established Cause & Effective.

While I had experienced success using experts, I had to admit that finding the right ones and managing the process was a considerable chore and took some effort. There had to be a better way.

Over the past 12 months we have been working on that better way by developing and refining a portal that offers instant access to vetted and affordable experts.

When you have time take a look at our refreshed website and judge for yourself.   And when you do just remember:

“You can’t do it all, so be sure to bring in the best experts you can afford to help you when the organisation needs them”

About Chris: Chris Gandy is the Principal and Founder of Cause and Effective , a group of experts who aim to help leaders transition their cause-based organisations from good to extraordinary. You can contact Chris here

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

1 Response

  1. Oh the resource tap! When I worked in a big corporate it was just a phone call or an email away. When I became the CEO of an NFP I missed it at first and then I learned the lesson you learned. Know enough about it to make sure you can brief an SME properly and know if they are giving you bad advice and then get the SME to deal with it.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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