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Colonel Kenneth Baillie of the Salvation Army engages Kellogg students during his presentation as part of the Social Impact Club's fall lecture series.

Marshaling forces for social good

Leader from one of the world’s most enduring nonprofits tells Kellogg students how to turn people skills to strategic advantage

By Matt Golosinski

10/6/2006 - During his Oct. 4 visit to the Kellogg School, Colonel Kenneth Baillie came armed with experience and insights — powerful weapons but peaceful.

Despite his title and crisp blue uniform, Baillie is not a conventional military man. But as head of Midwest territory for the Salvation Army, the 141-year-old organization he has served for 40 years, he is comfortable displaying an evangelical zeal that seems — if not exactly suited for the boxing ring — bristling with the necessary grit to combat poverty, one of the foes he and his colleagues confront through a range of social services.

“The standard images of the Salvation Army don’t tell the story,” said Baillie, addressing several dozen Kellogg students as part of a lecture series produced by the Social Impact Club, which provides a forum to explore socially responsible business and nonprofit/public management.

Baillie said typical conceptions focus on the organization’s thrift stores or holiday bell-ringers, yet fail to appreciate a host of other outreach efforts, such as disaster relief, daycare centers, summer camps and rehabilitation programs. He also revealed historical details from the Salvation Army’s history, which dates to 1865 as a movement founded by William Booth, a minister, in London.

Of particular relevance for the Kellogg audience at the student-run event was Baillie’s assessment of how nonprofits motivate their staffs to do more with less. Compensation, professional development and organizational structure in the not-for-profit sector often vary starkly from those in the for-profit realm, said Baillie.

“You’ve got to find a different way to motivate people in the nonprofit world; salaries won’t do it,” said Baillie, noting that financial resources are limited in organizations such as Salvation Army. He supported his claim by revealing his own modest annual wages. Instead, nonprofit leaders must be passionate about their mission and help others around them do the same by determining what makes their people feel rewarded beyond money alone.

“What is a person’s real desire and how can you help them get there?” asked Baillie, citing this as the nonprofit executive’s central professional development question.

In describing his role as the “superintendent” for Salvation Army’s Midwest territory, one of four in the United States, Baillie said he oversees operations in some 275 cities and neighborhoods, including 334 thrift stores and 89 community centers. In addition to “knowing the mission and keeping us on target,” this responsibility requires what he termed the “No. 1 skill”: interacting effectively with a variety of people.

“The skill of relating to people, treasuring them, honoring them and building relationships with them,” is one Baillie noted as being essential for success in his work. It’s also an ability he believes among his strongest assets.

While the international organization has an obvious “pyramidal hierarchy,” said Baillie, regional officers make many important decisions at the local level. This decentralized structure extends to the Salvation Army’s fundraising efforts.

“There is no national fundraising for the Salvation Army, ever. All money is raised, spent and accounted for locally,” said Baillie, who explained the rationale for this decision by citing its advantage in a worst-case scenario.

“If one person [in the organization] goes wrong [by misappropriating funds] … that one bad apple will not ruin the organization,” he said.

For nearly a century and a half, strategies such as this one have supported the Salvation Army’s mission. But so has the religious faith of its members, including Baillie.

“People who wear this blue uniform believe it’s a calling from God for a lifetime,” he said.

Recalling management guru Peter Drucker’s contention that the Salvation Army is among the world’s most successful nonprofit groups, Baillie read excerpts from a recent Booz Allen Hamilton study of the world’s most enduring institutions. The survey placed the Salvation Army among the most elite in its category, citing its diversification and breadth of ervices and an ability to motivate its workers as key strengths.

Baillie also believes the organization benefits from its reputation. In fact, he said most nonprofits must rely on this asset, since they often have few traditional resources to attract and retain top talent.

“There’s not a lot to leverage in the nonprofit world. The one thing you have is a reputation to live up to,” said Baillie.