Driving the mission: When a Business Leader Joins a non profit

Success or failure in a for-profit business is judged according to revenue growth and value for shareholders’ money. Measuring the social impact or “mission performance” of a non-profit organization is entirely another matter.

Mark Lukowski, a former senior executive at Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Clarke Inc., left the business world in 2009 to become Chief Executive Officer of Markham-Ontario based Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC), a child-focused international development agency. For more than 50 years, CCFC has helped children and families of all faiths break the cycle of extreme poverty by helping them develop the skills and resources to overcome poverty and pursue justice.

Lukowski says he made the career shift to the non-profit sector because it allowed him to combine his professional business acumen together with his personal passion for children related to charitable causes.

“At CCFC, I can leverage my skills, business expertise and focus on results, in an environment that is dedicated to improving the lives of children in poverty,” he says. “I have greatly enjoyed being associated with children for most of my life as a volunteer and as a parent, and now at CCFC I am truly privileged to work toward the goal relieving the plight of the world’s poorest children.”

Lukowski explains, “The challenge of any non-profit organization is to work effectively and efficiently to fulfill a passionate mission. We always have to consider how to best steward our funding, to achieve the best possible outcomes for those we serve. We owe so much to our stakeholders – our donors, our partners, and most important, our children and family beneficiaries. It creates a challenge to run a thriving organization that must be in perfect balance to maximize the social impact.”

Since joining CCFC, Lukowski has launched an ambitious six-year strategic plan to: improve the quality of life for children, families and communities the charity serves; grow the reach and effectiveness of the organization; fortify strategic partnerships; and advocate globally towards positive change for vulnerable children.

“Ample funding alone does not ensure that a charitable organization will become a high performer or successfully deliver on its mission,” says Lukowski. “What is important is to use the resources we have exceptionally well, over an optimum period of time, so that the communities can become self-sustainable.”

One aspect of using resources well lies in CCFC’s overseas work, which is done through partner organizations whose strength in their knowledge and understanding of local contexts is essential to the non-profit’s success.

How will the strategies within the organization’s ambitious plan be achieved, and how will they be measured? One approach Lukowski and his team at CCFC have adopted was developed by Harvard Business School. Called the “Nonprofit Coherence Framework”, it helps non-profit leaders identify the key elements that support an organizational strategy focused on attaining high performance; bring those elements into a coherent relationship with the strategy and each other; and help guide the actions of people throughout the organization to pursue high levels of individual and organizational achievement.

To attain a high performing culture, the organization must have all of its organizational elements – culture, structure, systems, resources, stakeholders and the operating environment – working together to drive strategy.

Lukowski is confident CCFC is well aligned, equipped and committed to successfully implementing its six-year plan. One of a number of tools the organization is introducing this year to help communities in its six countries of operation – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nicaragua and Paraguay— become empowered is the “spider-web”. This tool was originally developed in Nepal as a participatory way of monitoring community-based organizations. It will help inform communities and the CCFC about their potential readiness for self-sufficiency.

CCFC teaches local groups on how to assess and report their strengths and weaknesses in 12 critical skills areas. Assessments, visualized on the spider-web, help groups focus on areas that need improvement. It is also one of the monitoring tools CCFC uses to help ensure communities are able to lead development initiatives with little or no support from CCFC before they are deemed ready to “graduate” from a development program.

“Whether in the for-profit or non-profit sector, change is the only certainty. The CCFC team, just as in any large corporation, needs to be focused on our mission, on having a strategy in place to deliberately implement positive change, and on creating a corporate environment that supports change so that we truly become a high performing non-profit entity. I believe we have a coherent framework in place and are managing toward the goal of achieving our mission,” Lukowski concludes.

CCFC has been in operation since 1960 and through its programs is able to impact more than 500,000 children and families in Africa, Central and South America and India and the organization is supported by the generosity of over 50,000 child sponsors, private foundations, individual donors, companies, and Canadian government grants.

Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation. Mercantile is a mid market M&A firm. Mark can be contacted at www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com

By Mark Borkowski