The Seven Sins of the Nonprofit Sector (plus 3 Bonus Sins)

Posted on July 9, 2008. Filed under: Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits |

The Seven Sins of the Nonprofit Sector
by Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert

1. They think the competition is other non-profits, rather than other discretionary spending, including $5 coffees and $100 T-shirts.

2. They preach cooperation, but when push comes to shove many don’t really believe in it, and they have no clue on how to accomplish it.

3. It believes in the scarcity mind-set, instead of the abundance mind-set – in a Brookings study a few years ago about non-profits in the Washington, DC region, the title and message was “Thin the Soup or Shorten the Line” – the possibility of raising more funds was never even mentioned as a possible approach!

4. It doesn’t know how to say thank you to all donors and all volunteers that help support it.

5. They have the 80/20 rule backwards, where they spend 80% of the time trying to get 20% of the money (grants), instead of using leverage to reach individual donors.

6. It doesn’t understand that by saying over and over, “nonprofits are businesses” it is sowing the seeds of in its own destruction. If as a non-profit all you are “is a business” what possible right do you have to argue that you shouldn’t be taxed like a business? If on the other hand, you realize that non-profits are not businesses, and there are fundamental differences between non-profits and businesses, and that there are societal reasons for having non-profits as a different category of organization, then you can make the case for being treated differently. It does a lousy job of explaining to the public that non-profits are inherently more complicated than businesses, and what that means.

7. It routinely asks potential major donors of resources for $7 gifts, instead of $7000 gifts. Resources in this context include money, time and talent.

Three “Bonus” Sins

8. It’s forgotten the concept of the “common good” and what that means to our society at large, look for some areas where we can all agree – my personal suggestion for one area of agreement is literacy – regardless of where one lives, or one’s economic status, it is better for the individual and all of society if you can read than if you can not.

9. It’s almost always jealous of giving to religious organizations, even though the practices that are core to religious institutions would be an anathema to any non-profit – sending out 60 solicitation letters in a year? – (that’s about how many offerings are given in a church setting).

10. It has no clue as to what the term leverage can mean in the non-profit sector.

Bill Huddleston, CFC Expert
Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved

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