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4 Important Lessons Businesses Can Learn From Nonprofits

According to a 2020 nonprofit employment report, U.S. nonprofits employ over 12.5 million paid workers. That makes them the third largest employer over any other industry! If you were to include the countless volunteers these nonprofits rely on, there’s no doubt they would soar to number one. So what makes nonprofits so popular, and what can businesses learn from them?

Mission First

Every successful nonprofit has a clearly stated purpose. Whether this is to help the homeless, educate underprivileged youth, or protect the environment, these organizations start with a mission they wish to carry out. All of their passion and drive is centered behind this mission and it stirs others to participate as well. Employees and volunteers alike show up each day to help accomplish that mission. A for-profit business may state that their purpose is to make money, but this is merely a side effect. By committing to a compelling purpose, businesses can better inspire their employees to engage with the company.

Tell Your Story

One of the most compelling aspects of nonprofits is their ability to captivate audiences with a story. These stories range from the reason the organization was founded to their latest impacts and successes. By sharing these stories, nonprofits are able to effectively tap into their audiences’ emotions. Unlike simple marketing ploys, these stories are genuine and give viewers/listeners an insight into the daily life of the organization. Instead of just touting their products, businesses can benefit from telling their own story. This allows clients to better connect with the company and validates their choice to spend their money there.

Trackable Goals

One image that usually comes to mind when thinking of charity drives is the big sign that displays the fundraiser goal and how much has been raised so far. Nonprofits are constantly setting clear goals and working zealously to complete them. They want to help X amount of families or buy X amount of meals. This is followed up with constant updates as they near their goal or deadline. Keeping track of progress is a great way to keep people engaged and motivated. It shows that the goal is important and reachable, and keeps everyone in the loop. By employing this tactic, for-profits can keep the energy from dying around projects. It also helps to break goals down into accomplishable tasks and celebrate each milestone along the way.

Give Thanks

Nonprofits are constantly looking for help. Whether this is in the form of volunteers or donations, they’re seldomly in the position to turn help away. This creates a culture of gratitude at many nonprofits. The most successful nonprofits will make sure to thank every sponsor, volunteer, employee, or event participant in a way that feels meaningful. Appreciation is an easy and powerful action that keeps people returning time and time again. At Dion, we help many nonprofits recognize their volunteers and donors with custom jewelry keepsakes. Volunteers are often unaware of the exact amount of hours they have contributed until they see it engraved on a pin! With nonprofits especially, people are giving their time and money out of goodwill - so showing appreciation is a must. For-profit businesses benefit from recognizing their employees in the form of higher productivity, more positive customer interactions, lower turnover, and boosted morale. A little gratitude truly goes a long way.


No matter what industry your business is in, it can benefit from these nonprofit lessons. By establishing a clear purpose and goals, telling your company’s story, and thanking everyone who has made your business a success, you’ll be giving your company a boost in drive, motivation, and loyalty.


By Aubrey Dion

Aubrey Dion is proud to be back working for the family business she grew up in. Over the years, she has performed a wide variety of jobs in both the office and factory, becoming a true "jack of all trades." Aubrey credits her quick learning ability to her strong theatre background, where memorization and attention to detail are vital. Working in the marketing department allows her to stay creative and work on exciting new projects for the company.


Harvard Business Review - What Business Can learn From Nonprofits

Inc - 5 Lessons Every Business Can learn From the Non-Profit World

John Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies - 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report