- Published June 23, 2014I was pleased to see the response to my post "The End of Nonprofits". Note that when I say pleased, I mean that I was glad to see many responses; some were in agreement and a few were not. And that's actually a good thing. My point was to start the conversation to get people that are already there acting/doing and get folks that may not be there thinking. For those that are ready to act, I would recommend signing on to the Charity Defense Council, a nonprofit that Dan Pallotta has created; you can learn more about it here http://www.charitydefensecouncil.org
For those that were a bit on the other side, I wanted to offer a clarification. Several folks noted that they believe that there are, in fact, no negative connections with the term nonprofit. I agree with them that the public has a generally positive opinion of nonprofits. On the balance, I think the vast majority are viewed with gratitude, appreciation and support.
At the same time, by their nature of being driven by donations/contributions as opposed to a pure revenue model, the public has come to assume that our business model should be the complete opposite of commercial enterprise i.e. non competitive salaries, little or no investment in infrastructure or build out for future adherence to the mission. The point of Pallotta's work - and something I readily agree with - is that the sector has been all too willing to accept the definition of our work as (more or less) doing the most with the least.
This viewpoint often ends up translating into the public viewing GOOD charities as those that use the highest possible (preferably 100%) of donations for programming and as little as possible for salaries, fundraising, marketing, administration - often unpopularity known as "keeping the lights on" or even worse, the dreaded "overhead". In other words, what does not go TO THE CAUSE in a clear, distinct way is all too often viewed as that which should be as minimal as possible.
For example, consider the fundraiser who is spending a month planning the annual giving campaign. That person isn't doing a thing to advance the cause of the agency. Or is he/she? Chances are they're planning the fundraising mix which will actually allow the organization to deliver on its mission. Yet, because of both perceptive constraints, someone will need to work overtime to figure out how to make sure the charity is still at (at the lowest) a 75/25 program/ops ratio.
To summarize, we've moved the public to the place of accepting that the end goal of nonprofits is to keep expenses low. Those that do that are held in high esteem and celebrated.
Reality check: the goal of the nonprofit sector is to solve a myriad of social, health and humanitarian issues by using their funding effectively - and effectively means both helping today, planning for tomorrow and building for the future. Much the way we expect for profit companies that trade on the stock market to do a.k.a. increase earning per share - only in our case, its solving for poverty, hunger, and homelessness and finding a cure for cancer, heart disease, diabetes. Just to name a few...
Again, I appreciate the thoughts and responses.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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