Breaking Good: Debunking 6 Non-Profit Myths
This is the first installment of a new series by Josh Jacobson, Managing Director of Next Stage. When he isn’t shaking a fist at the establishment, he is working with the leaders of countless nonprofit organizations throughout the Carolinas to optimize operations, increase resources and strengthen governance. Click here for the entire “Breaking Good” series.
Hi there. My name is Josh and I work with nonprofits for a living. I’m what they call an organizational development strategist. “Oooooh, fancy title.” Yeah, I know. Jealous?
Over the last ten years, I’ve had the good fortune to work directly with more than 200 nonprofits. My personal goal is to make Charlotte the very best it can be for all of its citizens – a place where we can all be proud to live. Whoa, don’t everyone rush to pat me on the back at once. There’s plenty of this sweet social good karma to go around. Besides, I’m sort of a grump. [CORRECTION FROM BISCUIT EDITORIAL STAFF: Don’t believe that. Josh is more of a curmudgeon.]
Don’t get me wrong, I love my chosen profession, but there are so many stupid, unnecessary, no-good barriers to a nonprofit’s success. What’s worse is that many of them are self-imposed and/or community-supported roadblocks. I just don’t get it. Why stand in the way of our own forward progress? It makes no sense.
Here are a couple of my favorites that I’ll be covering in the Biscuit in the weeks to come:
Myth #1: Nonprofits Should Raise Most of Their Dollars from Donations
FALSE! This one is tricky. It is, after all, a primary strategic strength of nonprofits to provide donors tax deductibility for their gifts. For some nonprofits, donations are totally the way to go. But, what about earned revenue? “Wait, nonprofits are allowed to earn revenue?” Yup, and it’s a huge untapped opportunity.
Myth #2: There Are Too Many Nonprofits in Charlotte
UGH! I hear this way too often. I mean, sure, 4,000+ nonprofits in Mecklenburg is a big number, but who are they hurting? Are they “taking money away” from good organizations? Are they ruining it for everyone else? Hardly. In fact, some new nonprofits may be the disruptive change agents we desperately need.
Myth #3: The Best Way to Help a Nonprofit is to Volunteer
UH-OH! “Dear Josh, I just moved to Charlotte and I really want to meet new people. Is there anywhere I could volunteer?” What if I told you that your sudden interest in volunteering next Saturday is actually actively injuring the organization you aim to help? It’s true and it will change the way you think about volunteerism forever.
Myth #4: Nonprofits Can’t Afford to Market Themselves
LAME! This one drives me nuts. If you think a nonprofit shouldn’t be spending money on advertising or are somehow barred from the same self-promotion every other brand uses to build affinity, you may be part of the problem. Let’s dispel this myth one once and for all. The best nonprofits are marketing machines that could teach their for-profit counterparts a thing or two.
Myth #5: Social Entrepreneurism is the Future of Social Good
NOPE! Listen, I’m as big a fan of social entrepreneurism as the next guy. I think it’s awesome that for-profit businesses can be set up to drive positive social change and I’ll be a customer of that company all day long. But, replace nonprofits? No way. Uh-uh. It could never happen and the reasons speak to the very nature of how societal change is shaped.
Myth #6: You Can’t Make Money Working for a Nonprofit
HOGWASH! I heard someone say to me with a completely straight face that “being a nonprofit means no one makes any money, like, umm, no profit.” Is that really an assumption? That the people who work for nonprofits are making minimum wage, driving basic model Volvos back to their shabby quarters on the outskirts of town? A career of nonprofit work can make you a comfortable wage AND can give you a warm fuzzy your middle management bank job simply can’t do. Oh, that’s right, we’re going there pal.
I told you I was a grump. I’m like the John McEnroe of the nonprofit game. The Rene Descartes of social good epistemology. The Jebidiah Atikinson of charitable discourse. More soon!
Still hungry? Take a few more bites.
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Photo Credit Julia Fay Photography and Hygge