Do Business Rules Apply?

BEST Consultant, Vanessa Ferguson, works with United Way Marketing and Communications staff during the 2014 MAUW Annual Meeting.

BEST Consultant, Vanessa Ferguson, works with United Way Marketing and Communications staff during the 2014 MAUW Annual Meeting.

Business plan, marketing strategy, leadership capacity, investor diversification, cost benefit ratio and competitor analysis are all terms familiar to the for-profit sector. But do they apply to the nonprofit sector?


Should nonprofits have a plan to deliver and expand services; understand their market presence; possess strong leadership; diversify funding; articulate costs for running a program; and, know who else is offering something similar? The United Way of Genesee County says YES! Would you invest your hard earned dollars into a company that doesn’t have a plan? Probably not. So why do we expect donors to invest in nonprofits that aren’t equipped with the same infrastructure education as for-profit counterparts?


Building the internal capacity of nonprofit organizations is a major focus of the United Way of Genesee County. Through its program the BEST Project, nonprofits are provided with tools needed for mission achievement.  BEST’s professional development calendar offers workshops specially designed for nonprofit organizations covering topics such as human resource management, volunteer engagement, fund development, strategic planning, marketing, and leadership. Workshops help nonprofits become aware of steps necessary to improve their business. After all nonprofits are businesses… if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s a duck!


Workshops lay the foundation, but the real work comes in the form of organizational assessments and intense capacity building efforts. BEST walks nonprofit leaders step-by-step through everything they need to know to run a successful nonprofit business. Building capacity never stops, no matter how long an organization has been operating. Trying to offer the best service possible, while building capacity can be a daunting task. Assessments provide a simple roadmap for the organization to prioritize its capacity building efforts.


Encouraging nonprofits to take time to invest in themselves, BEST provides organizations with skilled consultants to help guide them through whatever capacity building service they need. This intense capacity building can take a few months to complete but the end result leaves a lasting imprint on the organization’s ability to increase sustainability.


Nonprofits must take the time to build capacity, but what good is it if the leadership driving the change hasn’t personally grown? Researching projects across the country, BEST realized leadership capacity in the nonprofit sector was significantly lacking. Looking to invest not only in the organization but the people leading the way, BEST launched an intense leadership program. The Leadership Institute is designed to improve ones understanding of themselves; while providing tools to make them better positioned to be more effective.  


Nonprofits are tasked with delivering the best service possible in the most efficient cost-effective way. Without a strong internal infrastructure this becomes extremely difficult. Encourage your nonprofit partners to take the time to invest in themselves. Your investment and the investment of other donors will be put to better use if they do!


To learn more about the BEST Project please visit

The United Way of Genesee County serves Genesee County in Eastern Central Michigan. Learn more by visiting