Thursday, March 30, 2017

Beyond the Business Books

By: Alex Napoli Non-Profit Development Intern

As a business management and finance major, I sometimes find it difficult to explain the nature of Save The Bay and its role as a non-profit organization. Many of my peers confuse non-profit with anti-profit. We have been coached in business school to maximize shareholder wealth and judge a business on how much value it creates. While this all is valuable knowledge, successful organizations cannot use this as their driving factor. In successful organizations, a new understanding of value must be developed. Value must transcend profits and drives an organization beyond making a dollar. This subtle engine is never clearer than at a non-profit, specifically, Save The Bay.

For Save The Bay, and many other non-profits, value is not directly linked to wealth. Rather, it is measured in the benefit provided to stakeholders and beneficiaries. Because of this, generating value can take many forms. Value can be created through restoration projects, fundraising campaigns, educational programs, and many more. In order to grow, Save The Bay’s value must be supported by a different type of organizational structure and a culture energized by something greater than generating wealth.

Save The Bay’s structure does not resemble the stereotypical American business. No fancy offices, no stock prices, no intercompany rivalry, and no business sharks (Save The Bay does have dogfish sharks though!). While Save The Bay may not have the staples found in a normal American business, it has an energy, passion, and motivation that would rival Wall Streets most successful hedge fund.

So where does this energy come from? How does this power generate value? The power is found in the members of Save The Bay and the purpose we all share. Save The Bay’s purpose is not to generate the most wealth, it is stronger than that, Save The Bay’s mission is to protect and improve Narragansett Bay. This purpose directs all of Save The Bay’s actions, even its fundraising. One way or another, all members of Save The Bay believe in this purpose as well. Even though our unique experiences and stories may be different, they share this common bond and allow us to develop true value.

Purpose is what rallies volunteers. Purpose is what engages new members. Purpose is what cleans up the bay and educates the community. And in the end, Purpose is what will achieve our mission of cleaning up Narragansett Bay for future generations.

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