Hidden Resources

Making Choices

The majority of nonprofit organizations are not essentially controversial, but you may occasionally find yourself faced with a prospective client whose mission you fundamentally oppose or whose operating methods you disagree with.

Of course, if you're selling a basic commodity that can be purchased just about anywhere, you'll likely be less concerned with the specific mission of your customers. But if, by the nature of your product or service, you're going to be promoting what your customers do, you should make sure you're comfortable with their goals before you agree to work with them.

What should you do if you're approached by a nonprofit with a mission you don't support? One approach is to price yourself out of the market, or you could decline the account by saying you're too busy. Barbara Talisman, president of Talisman Associates Inc., prefers to tell the truth without being confrontational.

"We send a letter that says `We appreciate your thinking of us; unfortunately, we're not able to offer you a proposal at this time that would be mutually beneficial,' " says Talisman. "I don't tell them I'm too busy, or I don't like their mission, or they're not operating ethically."

However you decide to handle it, don't compromise your own standards. "Don't work for anyone if you have to hold your nose to get the job done," says Rob DeRocker, co-owner of Development Counsellors International. "Don't sell your soul. You'll feel bad, and you won't do a good job."

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hidden Resources.

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