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5 Biggest Mistakes CEOs of Not-for-Profit Organizations Make

Avi Ratnanesan: Hi there. I’m Dr. Avi and welcome to the next video blog from Energesse. Now today, I want to talk about the five biggest mistakes that non-profit CEO’s make particularly in the health and wellness industry. Now, why do I want to talk about the five biggest mistakes that CEO’s make? Mainly, it’s because I actually care about the non-profit industry. I actually really believe that the strategies, objectives, the tactics, and all the activities that non-profit organizations do are absolutely amazing. They do it at very low budgets. They’re able to care for others and run these amazing programs. They spend a lot of time and a lot of hard work in raising to develop and produce the programs for people that really can’t afford mainstream health care, so I’m really passionate about helping the non-profit sector.

My only issue is that in a lot of times, there are many management problems that occur in these organizations that can be easily solve, and a lot of time, the CEO’s of these organizations make a lot of mistakes, and particularly in my role, mentoring CEO’s of health care and wellness organizations, non-profit organizations. I see these mistakes happen a lot, so the purpose of this video is not to really criticize. It really is to try and help CEO’s in the sector and provide you with some information that can help you to improve your offerings and improve how you get your services out there to general public.

Okay, so here we go. The first mistake that I see in most of non-profit organizations is lack of a good strategy, and what do I mean by that? I actually mean, that very often the strategy is very desperate, so a lot of times, non-profits tend to move with what might be a good idea, or the time, or we try this last year, so this year, it can’t work all. We try this five years ago, and didn’t work so we’ll never do it ago. A lot of those things are very reactive and notice much proactive planning and strategizing with a lot of the activities that I see and non-profits CEO’s do in their organizations. Also throughout the year, was adaption is good? This tends to be a lack of focus and it tends to be completely split up, all the activities are become very desperate, and there’s no synergy behind the lack of the activities that these non-profit organizations are doing.

I see this problem is lack of focus, being probably my number one issue or problem that I’ve seen with non-profit organizations and the CEO’s, and so the solution for that is really to basically keep checking yourself and making sure at least on a monthly basis. At least on a monthly basis that you’re sticking to your strategy, so no matter what the hardship, you’re still overcoming or you’re sticking to that goal and most importantly, you’re sticking to the needs of the people that you need to serve. That’s what I would recommend, a solution, the main solution for, is lack of strategic focus. The second problem that I see at non-profit CEO’s, the second mistake that I see is this issue around mindset.

Now, very often when the non-profit sector, what goes on to the mindset of these CEO’s, is that because we are not for profit. It means that we should not make a profit, right? Then, that’s where I see a big issue, because when you say, we aren’t meant to make a profit, that also kind of means in a lot of times, we’re then to make a lost, and so this mindset then traverses throughout the whole organization where everyone in organization actually feels, “Okay, we’re not actually meant to make money, we’re meant to make a lost.” Therefore, these organizations then become not sustainable and going to financial trouble very soon after which is in really ashamed because in order for you to serve the greatest amount of people, you actually need to make a profit, you actually need to deliver value and make money in order to serve greater number of people.

It’s a non-profit organization, you still have to create a sustainable economic model. You still have to find a good way to make money, and that starts off with this mindset. I think with non-profit CEO’s what I would say, the solution for that is to really start changing the mindsets, just saying, “Yes, we still have to make a profit. We still have to deliver value, and the more value we develop, the more profit we make, the more we can give back to that population that we serve.” It doesn’t mean you have to reduce prices because that’s the first thing that goes through everybody’s minds. It’s okay, we’re going to raise prices, that incorrect. You can even have [inaudible 00:04:17] instructors where you can charge high prices for those that can afford it and charge lower prices or free service for those that can’t afford it.

There are different ways to shape your financial model, and your mindset really needs to start with a more positive mindset around making a profit, so that’s the second mistake I see. The third mistake I see is offering around strengths and working with your own personal strengths, so very often with non-profit CEO’s, I see them actually work on so many different things because they’re trying to manage everything under a tight budget, and they’re spending a lot time on the things that do not leverage their own personal strengths, and that is actually a waste of time and a waste of resources, because a lot of your time could be spent on the stuff that is your strength such as the sales, such as mapping activities, and going out to funders, is going out to sponsors, going out to donors.

Really, what you want to do is delegate those things that are not part of your strength, or delegate those activities that don’t really rely on your key skills, so the thing I would say, the solution for this I would say to non-profit CEO’s is actually really, really, really, spend time identifying your strength. Now, what is a strength? A true strength is something that when you do time flies. When you do this activity, you feel like you’re completely in the zone, so you want to make sure that most of your job and most of your time is spent working on your true strength, because that’s how you will find your greatness, and that’s how your organization will also find its greatness and serve the broader population.

Now, the fourth problem that I see very often in the non-profit sector or the mistake that I often see is with people, and unfortunately as to non and profit sector works with the lot of volunteers. I think that’s absolutely fantastic. It so great to see so many people giving up their time and volunteering to help others, and this is not just a board level, this is also at the level of actually service delivery. It’s absolutely amazing sector because of this reason, but every now and again, you do come across people that are volunteering their time, but because of their negativity, because of the lack of performance, the whole organization tends to fail. That energy, that negative energy tends to affect everyone around them.

In this point and often what goes with the head of this CEO’s of non-profits is started thing, “Oh well, the volatility of the time. We can’t really afford to hire anybody else, so we have to pull up with this,” and I think hears with enough of profit CEO’s are really need to make a very strong tough decision. If that person is bringing down the energy, even if they are volunteer, and they volunteer in the time, if they are bringing down the energy of other people around you, that is harmful to your organizational culture, and that is harmful to organizational results, and ultimately the people that you serve, so you really have to have the courage.

At that point, when you do identify someone who’s really underperforming, or really bringing down the culture of others, or has a tendency of negativity, you really have to have the strength and the courage to go look, “I’m sorry, but you are not a right fit for this organization,” and let them go, even though they are a volunteer. This could happen at any level. It could be a board level, it could be a managerial level, or even levels below that, so that’s a really important solution for that particular mistake that I’ve seen.

Last but the least, I also want to talk about the fifth biggest mistake that I’ve seen in a non or profit sector with CEO’s is a lack of systemizing your processes, very, very often. You find that your processes and the processes in your organization are very dispute. In fact, every often, there’s no SOP,, or standard operating procedures. There’s no document somewhere to even say, “Here is how we approach the donor. Here is how we approach the sponsor. Here is how we run our next charity program.” A step-by-step guide that just isn’t there. Particularly in organizations, we have high charity volunteers. With some volunteers might be there only for a few weeks or a few months, then a new person comes on board, and you need to train them all over again.

It just takes up so much time and so much effort, and very, very costly. Only if you could just systemized your processes, have these documents or standard operating procedures all there in one place, you would solve this problem, and every time you have this high sort of volunteers, that be able to just come, leave the document, have very minimal training, and just follow this step-by-step guide, so it’s absolutely critical. You have storage center online. We can have all these documents and process is systemized.

That cave for me, that’s the five biggest mistakes I’ve seen non or profit CEO’s. It’s a lack of strategy, it is not bringing on the right people, it’s an issue with mindset and thinking that we are supposed to make a lost and not make a profit, it’s around strengths and not working with your highest strengths, and again, around people as well and making sure that you make the tough decisions with people  in terms of bringing them on, and ensuring that the right people for your culture remain in the organization. Now, if you have any questions at all, just feel free to ping me below this video, or message me directly at

I’m very happy to answer any questions that you have and as I said, I’d really love to help you make sure that you can deliver your services as best as possible to the people that you serve. Thanks very much. Good bye from me. I’m Dr. Avi. Bye.


About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.