Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Crossing Over

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Crossing Over

Article excerpt

How do you make a successful transition from the business world to nonprofits? Here's advice from six executives who have done just that.

LEAD BY INSPIRATION

"You will have little opportunity to lead by making decisions. You'll have the power of the budget to some extent, but if you have a vision or you want to make any changes, you're going to do it by leadership and by inspiration and not by direction. You've got to be a Pied Piper."

-Harold Williams, former CEO and chairman of the business conglomerate Norton Simon, and former CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust

GAIN NONPROFIT EXPERIENCE FIRST

"Unless that person is really unusual or unique, I think it would be a mistake for somebody to jump in and run CARE or run AARP without any not-for-profit or public sector experience. If I were [on] a board I would never choose such a person. ... It would be very difficult for somebody to walk in out of a corporate setting and just take over a not-for-profit. ... We don't teach humility in business school, do we?"

-William D. Novelli, CEO of AARP, and founder and former president of the public relations firm Porter Novelli

BELIEVE IN THE MISSION

"Have a passion for that organization's mission. Otherwise, the frustrations just wouldn't be worth it. Recognize that everything is consensus building. Know that you have the affirmative responsibility to project in every setting the critical importance of what the organization does - to funders, to media, to potential volunteers, to all the constituents."

-Philip Lader, chairman of the communications services firm WPP Group, and former university president and White House deputy chief of staff

REALIZE HOW HARD IT WILL BE

"Don't assume that the senior staff has the same business training and business background that you're accustomed to and that you may take as second nature. …

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