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Nick Sayner 2023

Nick Sayner

CEO and Co-Founder

The Difference Principle

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Founded: 2013

Industry: Nonprofit

Everyone, even great leaders, make mistakes. What matters is how you respond to those mistakes, says Nick Sayner, CEO and co-founder of The Difference Principle.

“I was fortunate to have wonderful mentors, my greatest being my father,” Sayner said. “He always told me not to be worried about making mistakes, because people and systems make mistakes all the time. What defines success is how you handle the mistakes you’ve made.”

The Difference Principle provides administrative work for nonprofits, leaving the staff of its network organizations free to fulfill their agencies’ missions, visions and goals. The Difference Principle was founded to provide a home for the administrative functions of several sister organizations already in existence and to create the ability for nonprofits to unburden themselves from the administrative requirements of their organizations in order to focus solely on fulfilling their mission statements.

The Difference Principle is meeting its goals, and then some. As CEO, Sayner has led his company from $50,000 of revenue in 2012 to an estimated $18 million in 2022.

“We at The Difference Principle plan on pushing the boundaries of nonprofit business practice and I plan on leading that effort,” Sayner said. “So often, nonprofits are looked down on for their business practices, and we plan on helping as many nonprofits reach greater goals by helping them improve those practices. I look to do so by educating, collaborating and celebrating nonprofits wherever and whenever possible.”

Sayner began his career with Wisconsin Community Services (WCS) as a volunteer in 1995. He worked in various capacities of the pretrial services program while at WCS, ending his tenure as manager of the release planning program in 2001. He joined Justice 2000 in 2002 and held multiple positions, eventually rising to division director when Justice 2000 merged with Community Advocates in January 2010.

In August 2010, he was asked by the Milwaukee County Community Criminal Justice Council’s executive committee to serve on the Evidence-Based Decision Making policy team and was soon selected to co-chair a working subcommittee, focusing on pretrial services. He was elected to an at-large board member position of the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies, the professional membership organization for pretrial practitioners. In 2012, he took a position on the State of Wisconsin’s Problem Solving Court Subcommittee of the State Community Justice Council. Sayner received his Master of Public Administration degree with an emphasis on nonprofit management from the Keller Graduate School of Management in 2013.

Sayner has presented at numerous conferences over the past two decades, including at the National Association of Pretrial Services Association, Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals, Minnesota Justice Research Center’s Re-Imagining Justice Conference, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, United States Department of Justice and numerous County Community Justice Councils.

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Did you know?

Nick was the Lead in his high school musical.


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