NHPF-Authored Articles & Industry Reports

Entrepreneur, April 20, 2018 Want to Parlay Your Passion Without Losing a Paycheck? Think About Running a Not-for-Profit by Richard F. Burns, President, CEO & Trustee, NHPF

The opportunity to pursue a passion without sacrificing a meaningful business role and salary has been the impetus for many business leaders to swap careers. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the United States. However,

Richard F. Burns

during most of my career in real estate private equity, had someone had told me that I’d leave that world to oversee the not- for profit NHP Foundation (NHPF), developing low-income housing, I wouldn’t have believed it. But being involved with a nonprofit helping people in desperate need wasn’t alien to me, either. For a number of years, I had been on the board of Project Hope, which operates a shelter and provides services for homeless women and children in Boston. There, I’d found it highly gratifying to help raise women out of poverty and find them work and affordable housing. That’s why the foundation’s approach made me reflect back on the positive impact made by Project Hope. I could use my prior experience to address the critical shortage of affordable housing for people in need. However, like many executives transitioning to the nonprofit world, I knew I couldn’t make this decision lightly; I needed to bring my “A-game.” The organization Nonprofit HR notes that, “Nonprofit sustainability occurs when a nonprofit attracts and effectively uses enough, and the right kinds of money necessary, to achieve [its] long-term outcome goals.” Overall, sustainability comes from achieving talent sustainability, the article said. As for my own transition to the nonprofit sector, the question was, could I parlay my experience and acumen to bring in the right talent to manage millions of dollars’ worth of complex private- public partnerships, resulting in thousands of affordable rental units for the working poor, families and seniors?

We are continuously creating innovative ways to increase our nation’s supply of housing and to bring a robust array of services to improve the lives of our residents. Because of federal regulations, we also get to reinvest our net income and development fees in new projects. Affordable housing truly is an “impact investment”—a term that covers any socially meaningful investment. We make the most of available government programs and incentives to create affordable units, even as we provide a return to our social impact financial partners. I’m hardly alone in this: The opportunity to pursue a passion without sacrificing a meaningful business role and salary has been the impetus for other business leaders to swap careers. The impact investing industry, after all, is a $114 billion sector, and success stories abound: Katy Sherratt While leading global projects for management consultancy Accenture, Katy Sherratt began volunteering for Back on My Feet, a national organization operating in 12 major cities coast to coast combating homelessness through the combined power of community support and essential employment and housing resources. Sherratt became connected because Accenture had a workforce development partnership with the nonprofit. After a few months of volunteering and after almost 10 years in corporate/private industry, Sherratt was given the opportunity to join the executive team at Back on My Feet. “I jumped at the chance,” Sherratt told me; and six years later, she holds the title of CEO and has had a tremendous impact on the organization’s success. Since she was appointed to her leader post, the organization’s programming has increased by more than 75 percent, and funding has increased by over 50

I finally decided that the answer was yes.

What happened when I made the move to the nonprofit world. For the nine years I’ve spent so far at NHPF, I’ve found it both challenging and rewarding overseeing an organization providing quality housing for those in need. And, finding and retaining a smart inter-generational team with experience in housing and other industries has been key.


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