Hopefully that title got you looking - if you're reading this it did.
Actually, I'm not suggesting for a moment that we stop the work, mission and potential of nonprofits to contribute to amazing and important social issues. Not for a second. I believe organizations tagged with this title are critical to healing the world, changing it and making it a better more livable place. If I didn't, I wouldn't have dedicated the last 13 years to working with a range of organizations that did everything from creating a better next home for seniors to changing the direction of the lives of amazing young people.
What I am suggesting is that we move away from the term "nonprofits". To give due credit, this idea is espoused by Dan Pallotta in his book Charity Case. Whether you agree with one, some, all or none of the ideas in this interesting book that raise some interesting questions, it's hard to argue with the stigma attached to the term "nonprofit".
He begins Charity Case noting that he'll be using the term charitable or humanitarian organization instead of "nonprofit". He does this because by nature, use of the word non or no, has negative connotations. He states - and I agree that the term is looked at by the public - volunteers, donors, and other participants in our work - as synonymous with organizations content to accept the scraps or leftovers of funding from institutions, corporations, and individuals. Further, these organizations should be content to use those funds at bare bones levels to fund our work paying the most meager salaries with little or no investment in infrastructure (often referred to as overhead - this is worthy of a much longer blog).
In reality, nonprofits - or charitable organizations, humanitarian organizations or charities - are committed to working to solve some of the most vital social issues; poverty, homelessness, better education for our kids- the list goes on. We're also tasked with curing life threatening diseases, major health issues and so much, much more.If that's the case, aren't we worth more? Aren't the folks that come to work for us deserving of at least the same if not better salaries? Aren't leaders of organizations that are changing the world entitled to the same salaries as leaders that are making sure that we've got enough soda, candy and laptops in our homes?
Again, I want to say these are issues are raised by Pallota in his writing - not my originals. But I thoroughly agree and hope that you'll give it some thought the next time you're writing that grant and being sure that there's no "overhead". Think of it the next time you need to recognize an employee or volunteer and are choosing between a pat on the back or a raise.
We need to start re-educating the public on this reality and hopefully, this will start a conversation.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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