About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For decades business leaders have suggested that governments and nonprofits would do well to follow the example of business by becoming more specialized, flatter organizations. A recent Wall Street Journal blog talks about how some businesses are now reversing their decades old pursuit of specialization in favor of vertical integration: controlling raw materials, manufacturing, and distribution. What will this trend mean for nonprofit historical organizations?

In a sense nonprofit historical organizations have always been vertically oriented. Even though many have tried to specialize and play to certain strengths, they also control the raw materials (archives and collections), manufacturing (reference libraries, exhibits, historic markers, etc.) and distribution (interpretation, digitization, public programs, etc.) Nonprofit historical organizations continue to have an unfragmented supply chain to deliver experiences demanded by the public. Perhaps this “new” business trend will not have much impact on how nonprofit historical organizations work, but the blog suggests one thing that might bear watching: the speed of communications which has created a flatter world around us will demand greater swiftness in responding to changing consumer needs.

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