There is a bunch of conversation on whether sustainability=earned income, how far you can push the nonprofits should be like businesses thing here and here.
Well I'd like to point out there are a bunch of sustainable nonprofits that suck. Let me define my terms. Sustainable nonprofits have enough cash income to fund their ongoing operations... that could be from an endowment, from a good development director, from a sustainable pool of individual donors, from earned income, whatever. Sucking is defined as not accomplishing measurable goals.
My version of suck (measurable goals) is, I think, the axis on which the whole nonprofit vs. for-profit thinking debate should take place. In business, you have a quick, measurable built in goal: profitability. Why can a CEO of a packaged foods company move over to and Internet media firm? The P&L is the same... the same basic measurements are in place.
It is a lot harder for the CEO of a symphony to switch over to being the CEO of a homeless shelter.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review has a good article. One quote struck me:
“The lack of having a bottom line is truly under appreciated,” explains Schlosberg, “as is its importance in enabling an organization to have focus and come together. It becomes much more of a challenge to evaluate not only the organization, but individuals and their performance as well.”