BUSINESS ETIQUETTE 101 FOR NON PROFITS
by D.A. Sears
by D.A. Sears
A nonprofit is a corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive. Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. A vast number of organizations qualify for nonprofit status. Nonprofit organizations include organized book clubs, churches, soup kitchens, charities, political associations, business leagues, fraternities, sororities, sports leagues, Colleges and Universities, hospitals, museums, television stations, symphonies, and public interest law firms.
The number of nonprofit corporations in the United States continued to increase into the twenty-first century. Although nonprofit corporations cannot produce dividends for investors, they provide income for the employees, and they foster work that benefits the public. Are you ready to serve the people as a nonprofit?
In the world of business, only three things matter:
1. What do you know?
2. What do you have to offer?
3. Can you be trusted?
Being brilliant and possessing top notch skills and a track record of producing high quality goods and services are a few "pieces of the puzzle" to succeeding in the business world. But it is not enough. Whether you are the CEO of a for-profit or not for profit organization, your intellectual capital, skills, and ability to produce high quality goods and services will not do you much good if you cannot be trusted. Why? Because the world of business runs on trust!
How does the world determine whether or not you can be trusted? Your adherence to the unwritten rules of etiquette is the yardstick the world of business utilizes to determine if you are trustworthy. Your professional reputation and success and that of your organization is directly tied to whether you abide by or violate the written and unwritten rules of etiquette. While the world listens to what you have to say, it pays very critical attention to what you do and what you don't do.
When you commit an offense, the world will not confront you, tap you on the shoulder, and say: "Hey! You committed a breach of etiquette. This is what you did wrong. Here is what you should have done and this is how you should correct it." Instead, the world watches silently, makes note of your offense(s), and decides whether it will do business with you and whether it will tell others in the business world not to do business with you or provide you with critical resources -- such as funding -- based on the severity of the breach of etiquette you have committed.
Now, why would the world sit back and watch you commit a breach of etiquette and not tell you? Because the world of business implicitly expects you to know and understand etiquette. The business world takes the view that if you have reached the pinnacle of owning or running a company -- be it a "for profit" or "not for profit" organization -- surely, you must know the rules of engagement. Surely, somewhere along the way, someone mentored you and taught you etiquette.
What exactly is "etiquette"? Some refer to it as "manners." While others refer to it as "protocol" or "home training". For those of us who were raised by the village, as we made our journey from childhood to adulthood, our parents, family members, and Elders in our communities taught us "etiquette". We were taught to say "Thank you"; "Please"; "Excuse me"; and "You are welcome". We were taught to always be punctual for an appointment -- tardiness was inexcusable. And we were also taught to honor our commitments -- that our word should be our bond.
In other words, if you say you are going to do something, do it! In retrospect, in their infinite wisdom, our parents, family members, and Elders in our communities were providing us with the rules of engagement to successfully navigate the environment outside of our immediate environment. We were given the fundamentals of business etiquette.
Philanthropists, foundations and Fortune 500 corporations are constantly searching for non-profit organizations that need funding and with whom they can develop and maintain mutually beneficial strategic alliances. Why? It makes good business sense for Fortune 500 corporations to fund and form mutually beneficial collaborations with non-profit organizations that are empowering the communities in which their clients and prospective clients live and work. But philanthropists, foundations, and Fortune 500 corporations want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will receive a return on their investment.
And providing a non-profit organization with funding or engaging a non-profit organization in a strategic alliance is, in the eyes of philanthropists, foundations, and Fortune 500 corporations, an investment. Key officers of a non-profit organization who engage in the types of behavior described below run the risk of having their organizations characterized as "bad investments" by philanthropists, foundations, and Fortune 500 corporations:
1. Scheduling meetings with individuals and organizations and not bothering to show up or calling in advance to advise the individuals and organizations in question that the meeting has been canceled.
2. Scheduling telephone conference calls which you say you are going to initiate and not making the conference calls and not notifying the participants that the conference calls will not take place.
3. Failing to return telephone calls from clients, prospective clients, vendors, colleagues, etc.
4. Failing to respond to e-mail communications from clients, prospective, vendors, colleagues, etc.
The types of behavior that I have just described are, in fact, breaches of etiquette. Would you do business with an individual or organization that exhibited any of the behaviors I have just described? Would you have confidence in an individual or organization that engaged in any of the behaviors I just described?
Think about it!
About the Author
Diane A. Sears is the Managing Editor of a quarterly international male parenting journal -- IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R) Forum For and About the Fathers of the World and a member of the University Council for Akamai University in connection with its Fatherhood and Men's Studies program. Ms. Sears has published interviews of more than 100 Men who are Fathers.
She has authored and published reviews of numerous books which explore Fatherhood and men's rights issues, including "Father And Child Reunion" by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.; "Swallowed By A Snake: The Gift Of The Masculine Side Of Healing," by Thomas R. Golden, LCSW; and "The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father" by Thomas Hoerner. Sears is featured in the 2003-2004 National Register's Who's Who In Professionals and Executives and is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
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