Perhaps the single most important lesson learned by the pioneers in the field has been a deeply personal one that strikes to the very heart of their self-perceptions. So often, non-profits discover (too late) that their entrepreneurial efforts have been doomed simply because they are being led by people with the wrong types of skills. The mistake occurred because they did not truly understand the difference between:

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innovators, entrepreneurs and professional managers.

 

Regardless of whether a non-profit is attempting to engage in a variety of earned income strategies or trying to launch a business venture, it’s important to understand the differences between the three types of leaders: They are all needed in the evolution of a healthy organisation, but at different times, and rarely does an individual possess more than one of the three skills.

 

Innovators are the dreamers: They create the prototypes, work out the kinks – and then get bored, anxious to return to what they do best, which is inventing more prototypes. They are rarely concerned, ultimately, with the financial viability of what they do.

 

Entrepreneurs are builders: They turn prototypes into going concerns – then they get bored. For them, financial viability is the single most important aspect of what they do.

 

Professional mangers are the trustees: They secure the future by installing and overseeing the systems and infrastructure needed to make sure the going concern keeps going.

 

Unfortunately, in the non-profit sector, often because resources are scare, organisations try to shoehorn people into positions where they don’t fit, and many of the problems non-profits have when they begin adopting entrepreneurial strategies arise from having an innovator or a professional manager trying to do an entrepreneur’s job.

 

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