For-Profits and Nonprofits, Sharing Best Practices — In Conversation with Leslie Motter

4 min readDec 12, 2023
Image by DilokaStudio on Freepik

Despite the missions that drive them, nonprofit organizations share many of the same goals and challenges as for-profit businesses: financial stability and growth, delivering on a promise, creating and sustaining a motivated workforce, and more. The most successful nonprofits take best practices from their for-profit counterparts and vice versa.

We are in an ongoing conversation with Leslie Motter, President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A purpose-driven and collaborative leader, Leslie has decades of experience leading both for-profit and nonprofit organizations and a proven track record of delivering results.

Leslie, as someone with experience working in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, how have you leveraged best practices from your for-profit experiences to enhance your leadership and management approach at the Make-A-Wish Foundation?

“My experience in multiple for-profit companies allows me to bring best practices, such as strategic planning, regularly reviewing investments and their ROIs, and running a cost-benefit analysis before taking on a new project. Ideas like these are commonplace in the for-profit sector but aren’t as common at all nonprofits.

Through years with for-profit companies, I know that investing in the infrastructure of an organization is essential. That means upgrading technology, focusing on risk management, and incorporating other business disciplines that most successful for-profit organizations have done for decades. At nonprofits, the focus is often entirely on delivering on the mission. That’s important, of course, but organizations also need to be sustainable. We need to invest in ourselves, so that we can continue to deliver on our critical mission and expand our outreach.”

Are there any differences in managing a nonprofit “love” brand — one that is well-known and beloved by the public — from globally recognized for-profit brands?

“I am fortunate that all the brands that I have worked for — both nonprofit and for-profit — are best in class. American Express, Vanguard, Make-A-Wish, to name a few. They are well-respected, well-run organizations.

Of course, there are differences in culture and how companies and organizations operate, but many of the same best practices apply, whether at a for-profit or nonprofit. For example, we are now working on an enterprise risk management plan. This is something I did many times in my previous for-profit roles but it is not always as common in nonprofit organizations. You start by involving the right people, conducting the right due diligence both internally and externally, identifying highest risk and most likely risk scenarios. Then, you determine how to mitigate the potential risks and create an enterprise risk management plan. By incorporating this into our three-year strategic plan we ensure we are taking the necessary steps to safeguard the Make-A-Wish brand.

Ultimately, it’s critical to protect the brand, whether that’s by reducing risk, delivering the best customer care, the best products or culture.”

What leadership skills do you believe are essential for success in the CEO role? How have you developed these throughout your for-profit and nonprofit experiences?

“The ability to listen and lead with authenticity. I would say those are critical. I’ve learned a lot over the last year and have adjusted my style from being a driver focused on getting things done to being someone who makes a point of involving others and achieving our goals together.

I recognize the importance of gathering the best possible talent, ensuring they have clear goals, understand their roles and responsibilities, and feel valued. You are more powerful as a team, and inclusion produces better results.

Finally, integrating the tangible best practices from both for-profit and nonprofit organizations has allowed me to work with our team to ensure sustainable growth for Make-A-Wish.”

Leslie, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Leslie Motter is a purpose-driven and collaborative leader with a proven track record delivering results for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Currently President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Leslie is recognized for her 20-plus years as a leader in the financial services industry, as well as her deep experience leading strategy development, scaling businesses, and creating strong, sustainable goals.

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