Not-for-Profits Critical - Especially in Challenging Times

As we launch aggressively into 2010, it’s often easy to forget that not all of the activities that make this industry so great are initiated or directed by the ‘for profit’ sector.

Most of us do work in for-profit business – obviously with varying degrees of success. The basic premise of this type of activity is to make more money than you spend, or to at least set yourself up to do so in the not too distant future. It usually (but amazingly, not always) requires a business plan, often a bit of seed capital, and at least an idea or opportunity to provide a product or service that others will pay for. You see, it’s all relatively simple.

Much less simple is making the determination on how you’re going to invest and spend those hard-won dollars and often scarce resources. Do they get reinvested? Taken as profit? Used to ease cash flow challenges? Do resources get gobbled up in research and product development?

The current financial environment has caused business owners to re-evaluate many things, not the least of which has been how they use cash and scarce resources. The act of calculating ROI (Return on Investment) has become more important. So in this era where cash is pretty much king, there have been many postponements or reconsiderations, and more than a few casualties. Many of these casualties have unfortunately taken their toll on the not-for-profits in our industry.

From trade associations and foundations to those providing many services that if left to individual companies, would totally flounder, industry not-for-profits help protect the reputation of the industry, get science appropriately described, and engage ears in Washington and around the world to support a healthy business environment. It’s often difficult to calculate ROI on these activities, and as budgets get redrawn, these organizations can easily find themselves with the short straw.

It is therefore with a bit of renewed pride that I read headlines both within our sector and outside, of the massive support being mobilized for the victims of disasters such as that in Haiti, and read of the programs offered by our industry groups such as Vitamin Angels and Nourish America as they prepare to offer support. So, kudos to these organizations and the numerous others, and also to all the companies who continue to support worthwhile not-for-profit enterprises through challenging times.

When I read about efforts such as this, it’s easy to feel proud of many of the things this industry does and the health it can provide to so many.
While I’ve focused on the two noted above, there are of course many others deserving of support. Thanks for all you do….

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