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Which of these Five Nonprofit Consultants Limiting Beliefs is You?

Which of these Five Nonprofit Consultants Limiting Beliefs is You?

You’re not human if you don’t have limiting beliefs. They’re the voices in the back of your head that say “be careful,” and “don’t go there” protecting us from danger. The same messages, especially when there’s not the physical danger that our internal caution system was created to handle, can stop us from real success. Here’s five that can hold you back from a successful nonprofit consulting career…

Nonprofits have no money. Wrong! “Nonprofit” doesn’t mean that there’s no money. It means there’s no shareholders to get the profits. In some cities, nonprofit hospital and universities are the biggest employers, with budgets in the billions of dollars. Connected to them are thousands of people and their businesses make their living serving the nonprofit community. Nonprofits need the same services as most businesses, plus most need specialty services, such as fundraising and program support. Many of the services that nonprofits require that are equivalent to businesses, such as accounting, have nonprofit specialties.

Nonprofits are corrupt. Unfortunately, nothing gets a bigger headline than a nonprofit scandal. Inappropriate accounting, bad human resources behavior, and misuse of resources, among other issues, occur in business, government and nonprofits. But because nonprofits are held to a higher standard, and because they are intended to serve the broader public, particular attention is given to any misdeeds within the nonprofit sector. What you’ll find is that nearly every nonprofit is aware of their fiduciary and moral obligations and operates appropriately within a code of ethics, whether formal or informal. Plus, if you see bad behavior, as a citizen, you have the right to call that behavior to the attention of your state’s attorney general, who has standing in all nonprofit matters within their jurisdiction.

Nonprofit work is “play,” not serious. Nonprofit work is extremely serious work. Some people might say that it is more important than business because it touches lives directly in ways that very few businesses offered products can do. You also find that nonprofits will work in extreme conditions, that no business would dare consider. Nonprofit workers will do more work than their equivalent for-profit workers and as their consultants, will often expect the same dedication from you.

Nobody will take me seriously if I work with nonprofits. Will you be taken seriously if you show them a paycheck? There’s nothing “un-serious” about working with nonprofit clients. Not only do nonprofit clients pay, but the work you do for them makes a difference in ways that equivalent work for a business will not. How many lives did their client, XYZ widget company, save today?

I don’t understand nonprofits. It’s easy to see why. Nonprofits have their own culture, standards of behavior, and even business processes which are distinctive from either the business or government sectors. Many people who enter nonprofit work do so because they did not want to work in business. This can express itself with an attitude of disdain toward business processes and the people who work in the business sector. Don’t take it personally. As a consultant, even as a consultant who comes with a broad nonprofit background, many in the nonprofit sector will see you as simply another business person trying to make money off them. It’s okay. Your job is to build relationships to break through that barrier. Most will see the value you can bring to their organization. Some never will. Don’t worry about them

I don’t have nonprofit credentials. While specific credentials are very important in many areas that serve nonprofits, and that don’t, for non-state regulated professions, your ability to show results in your work is much more important to your clients than a certificate. For example, the CFRE (certified fund raising executive) is a well-known credential in the nonprofit fundraising world. However, it is not a state regulated certification, such as certain legal or medical skills. So, as long as you are appropriately registered in the state to offer fundraising services (if the state you are working in requires this) your credentialing does not make a difference. Your clients will be more interested in the results they get than whether you have the letters behind your name. That said, the letters are important as a way of showing that you have some confidence in the field. In effect, they are marketing tools.

Is it easy to succeed in consulting to nonprofits? No! But what’s going to get you first is your own limiting beliefs, not reality.


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Matt Hugg

Matt's the president of Nonprofit.Courses. See his bio here.