Embrace change!

Throughout my life, I’ve embraced change, whether in a major circumstance such as a career decision, or for simple things like restaurants I frequent. I think I’m among the minority here, as most people I encounter seem to be afraid of change. I’m not sure why that is, because my experience with change is mostly good.

The first time I remember feeling this way was the first career change forced upon me. I’d always considered myself a team player and when layoffs hit my department because of a huge decline in our market, I figured I was safe. Not the case, as I learned, because my superiors were more interested in keeping around people loyal to them only. When the shock of being laid off wore off (literally within an hour), I actually felt relief. What was being forced upon me was change – for the better. I hadn’t realized how much I needed the change until I was no longer working in that job.

Cut forward to 2009. As I contemplated my next career, I made a decision to focus on the non-profit world, as I felt it was time to apply my for-profit and non-profit experience to help others. Through running two smaller non-profit organizations as if they were for-profits, I gained what I thought was a good understanding of how non-profits could operate professionally and efficiently. The question was whether to start a consulting practice or do something on a larger scale that could benefit thousands of organizations. Naturally, with my ambition, I chose the latter.

I started the Non-Profit Purchasing Group because I felt I could help non-profit organizations nationally to save money. I felt there was a void in this marketplace that I could fill by creating an affordable solution that was easy to use. With a thorough understanding of the expense profile of a typical non-profit, I set out to recruit best-in-class vendors with whom to partner. I convinced 21 to join me at launch in January 2010 and I took the best practices from other group purchasing organizations and buying programs and built NPPG from scratch. We now have 58 vendor partners and continue to grow. This year we added a Canadian operation that serves non-profits in Canada.

Group purchasing organizations like NPPG, or state non-profit associations that provide member benefits, are easy sources for non-profits to save money. All the non-profits need to do is change how they purchase goods and services. In my experience, this is not very difficult at all, especially with respect to common items like office supplies and printing. Simply shop online instead of driving to the local office supply store. With NPPG and state associations, which require nominal fees to join, the return on investment (i.e., savings divided by cost to join) is usually at least ten times when used to the fullest extent. That is a lot of money available for essential programs. In the case of the Miracle League of San Diego, a non-profit organization I still run, $50 saved equals one scholarship for a player unable to afford the registration fee.

The fictional Wall Street character Gordon Gekko famously said “Greed is good.” I prefer to say “Change is good.” Good for the soul, good for the bottom line, good for the constituents that we serve. After all, non-profit executives are stewards of the money donated to the organization. I’m hopeful that more non-profit executives and managers embrace change this year and pursue money saving opportunities with the same effort that they use to raise money.


About Dan Engel at NPPG

CEO of the Non-Profit Purchasing Group (www.nonprofitpurchasinggroup.org), co-founder and President of the Miracle League of San Diego (www.miracleleagueofsandiego.org), Vice-Chairman of the California Oncology Research Institute (www.corigroup.org)
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