Nine Nonprofit Heresies. You Add Number 10!

amused012These nine assertions will make some folks uncomfortable. A few will be pissed off at my effrontery. **

But if these observations make some readers think outside of their comfort zone, I will be pleased. Frosting On The Cake – if you SHARE this with colleagues!

(1) Like it or not, your nonprofit is a business! A BUSINESS! It has investors, it develops and distributes services, it has a brand, it operates in a competitive marketplace and it has both a balance sheet and an operating statement with a bottom line. Even without the profit motive, you are still a business.  Get used to that fact!

(2) Too many boards think the nonprofit mission justifies paying nonprofit employees less than their for-profit counterparts even though that makes it difficult to recruit and retain the most talented employees.

(3) The Do-Gooder Syndrome is dangerous. Idealism about mission can become a delusion that permits loose management, lack of accountability and eventual failure of individuals and organizations. 

(4) Mission is not your most important consideration. Mission is consideration number two! Organizational sustainability comes first. (This is not a chicken/egg issue. If the organization is weak or can’t stay in business it can’t effectively amused036deliver the mission!)

(5) Many nonprofit leaders believe nonprofits are too “pure” to adopt business practices. So they smugly fail to consider many well-proven techniques that would enhance individual and organizational performance.

(6) Board dysfunction is common, intolerable and dangerous. It is also correctable.

(7) A strong, balanced board can be the greatest asset to the senior staff of a nonprofit, especially in times of challenge and/or change.

(8) Many nonprofit staffs underperform because of excessive aversion to risk & excessive desire for the security of the familiar.

(9) Even though they are necessary, most mission statements are jargon-dumps of unfocused verbal nonsense.

These are my nine current heresies. Add your own in the comment section – or challenge the ones I offered.

**And – if you are really outraged at some of the above– take a look at the ABOUT section at the top of this post.

2 thoughts on “Nine Nonprofit Heresies. You Add Number 10!

  1. Here is my #10: NPOs can’t afford to “go cheap.” Plan events that are quality events. Buy merchandise, carrying your brand, that is first-rate. Giveaways, donor gifts, fundraising premiums, recognition awards must have high perceived value by the recipient. I say this as a former United Way board member, community volunteer and college trustee. And as co-owner of a promotional products company, I hear from EDs of nonprofits who got burned by “finding a bargain on the internet” only to be disappointed by product quality and customer service issues later.

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