UK: "Managing the Non-Profit Organization" by Peter Drucker (Butterworth Heinemann, £20.00). (2 of 2)

UK: "Managing the Non-Profit Organization" by Peter Drucker (Butterworth Heinemann, £20.00). (2 of 2) - Any profit-making manager will find Drucker's lessons as valuable as any non-profit leader. Indeed, this book could well have greater value for the fo

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Any profit-making manager will find Drucker's lessons as valuable as any non-profit leader. Indeed, this book could well have greater value for the former, since analogies are nearly always more powerful for being drawn from a completely different context - like (to take four of Drucker's interviewees) the Girl Scouts, the American Heart Association, the Catholic Church and the St Joseph Health System.

The interviews are really colloquies, for Drucker is intent on exploring whatever can be taught by sagas like the creation of the Daisy Scouts - a runaway success for five-year-olds. He sums up how Frances Hesselein established a "business" with 150,000 enrolled members, growing fast: "You went out and looked at the needs ... you developed this service. It was market driven. Next you have to persuade, you have to create customers ... To make the change, you look for targets of opportunity."

Here lies the pervasive lesson: successful non-profit organisations succeed by mastering their marketing platforms. But there is a crucial distinction. The needs confronted by the non-profit organisation exist whether they are satisfied or not. If there is no profit opportunity, that cannot end the matter. Rather, it is the beginning. Without the non-profit contribution, for example, much of any nation's cultural life would disappear but this contribution depends overwhelmingly on the ability of the profit-making sector to generate wealth.

Drucker points out that the share of non-profit donations in gross national product in the United States has budged not an inch in 40 years, while proportionate spending on leisure, medical care and education has advanced greatly. That must to some extent reflect the financial squeeze that first tightened on blue-collar Americans and has now hit middle incomes. In the UK the squeeze on private ability to finance needs has coincided with both governmental cutbacks and the swelling of those needs. This is not a game in which losses and gains cancel each other out. It is a game in which everybody loses.

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