On The Roadmap, we often talk to guests about how to climb the ladder, scale their business, and one day, exit stage left. But as of late, many people have asked, what about nonprofit businesses? On this week’s show, host Ted Jenkin welcomes Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, the CEO of Hillels of Georgia, a nonprofit umbrella organization partnering with over 24 college campuses to engage and empower Jewish students.
Rabbi Larry describes himself as an entrepreneurial rabbi, explaining that his career took unexpected turns. He initially planned to become a lawyer but fell in love with teaching and decided to pursue education. However, after the 9/11 attacks, he felt a calling to make a more significant impact in the world, which led him to become a rabbinic student. He highlights the importance of finding one’s passion and understanding the “why” behind their actions, whether for-profit or nonprofit.
When it comes to running a nonprofit, Rabbi Larry drives home the idea that it must be treated like a business, while maintaining a strong focus on the organization’s mission. He points out that while philanthropy and altruism are essential, understanding what the nonprofit is selling and the impact of its products is crucial. Nonprofits must be authentic in their messaging to build relationships and inspire people to support their cause.
To recruit employees for nonprofits, particularly when they may not be able to offer competitive salaries compared to the private sector, Rabbi Larry explains that many people are moving from corporate jobs to the nonprofit sector because they seek meaning and a sense of purpose in their work. By providing employees with a strong connection to the mission and community, nonprofits can attract talent and create a sense of fulfillment that may not be found in higher-paying roles.
Regarding the challenges of starting a nonprofit, Rabbi Larry acknowledges that failure is possible, but not being afraid to take risks is essential. Nonprofits need to adapt to changing times and listen to the needs of their community. He passionately explains the importance of giving back to the community, as it enhances the value of the entire local area and fosters a sense of caring among employees and stakeholders.
Rabbi Larry suggests that nonprofit hopefuls read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, emphasizing that knowing the “why” behind their actions will drive passion and attract support.