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Comparing Human Service and Business

1. What do you perceive as the main differences between managing a human services organization and managing a business? Are the same skills, attitudes, and body of knowledge appropriate for each? If so, why are they appropriate? If not, why not?
2. How does the agency identify the needs and opportunities for services it may provide? How does it involve the community in its assessment process?

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The major difference between managing a human service organization and a business is the goal and mission. Traditionally, business exists on the notion of profit, whereas most human service operations are nonprofit. Many have the notion that nonprofit or 'not for profit' groups don't make a profit. That's an obnoxious concept because nothing can conceivably run with no money. NOTHING. A group I founded is an example of the most minimal a group can exist, where there is extremely small overhead (no fundraising fees, no paid staff, and no office rent charges). The nonprofit exists on donations, volunteers and most services are free. On a larger scale that is a difficult way to run a business but it has worked with community services available to nonprofits and word of mouth for 15 years.

There is another grey area, which is not meant to confuse the issue but offered merely as contrast. If one were to go to a plastic surgeon or fertility specialist, the service may greatly enhance the needs of the patient but those providers, well-meaning and personable, most definitely DO make a hefty profit.

In the traditional community service agency, the funding source is really critical to get an understanding about the company. Does the group have bylaws and mission that mandate strict funding guidelines? For example, the nonprofit Planned Parenthood might limit funding sources such as the Catholic Church or a youth group ...

Solution Summary

While the underlining foundation of a human service organization and managing a business is very similar, the mission and other factors are what make them different. The attitudes community involvement and other important features are discussed.