One major challenge both new nonprofits and for-profit startups have in common is being able to effectively justify their existence. 

It's not easy, especially because it usually involves convincing influential stakeholders that the traditional way of doing things is all wrong. 

CEO Mark Arnoldy has learned this from experience after working with Nepal's national health care system. His organization, called Possible, is a nonprofit that now provides health care to more than 260,000 people in rural Nepal. 

In a recent post on First Round Review Arnoldy discussed how a company culture of genuine compassion combined with extreme tenacity allowed Arnoldy and his team to set up shop in Nepal and begin delivering care to a population that had grown used to a lack of electricity, clean water and basic infrastructure after a decade-long civil war. 

Possible, which was founded in 2005, exists today because the nonprofit was able to prove to the Nepali government that there was a place for its services within the health care system--despite the government's insistence that there was no money to fund the group's operations. 

Arnoldy didn't take "no" for an answer because he had done his homework. Using lots of data and research, Arnoldy showed that Possible's services cost just over half of what the government had said it was willing to spend. 

"Good entrepreneurs find a way to create data sets--even if you have to dig deep into tangentially related data, or speak to enough people to make anecdotal evidence significant," Arnoldy said. 

Possible's results were made possible with an "informed contrarianism." Before they even began, the team was convinced that what they were doing was worth it because they had found evidence that said it was.

Nonprofits, like any other organization, must keep efficiency top of mind. Despite what you might expect, compassion doesn't necessarily create a soft culture. Arnoldy likes his team to think of efficiency as a moral obligation. 

"For us, we tell our employees to imagine that a patient is sitting right beside them," Arnoldy said. Your team can picture its customers in a similar way. 

"Imagine a customer in need, who doesn’t have the solution [that] you're capable of delivering to them," Arnoldy advised. "When you do this, you create a company that will constantly push itself toward self-improvement."

Published on: Jun 17, 2014