Throughout my career in the nonprofit and foundation sectors, I’ve constantly been annoyed by the notion that we’re second-tier workers doing lesser priority work, compared to our corporate/for-profit/”real job” counterparts. We give too much credence to the formula of nonprofit = charity = hand-me-down = second-class. I even had to correct a visitor whom I overhead saying that the Kapor Center “isn’t a real nonprofit because this office is too nice.” Baloney, to put it mildly.
I was happy to come across this recent post in the Chronicle of Philanthropy by David Greco of the Nonprofit Finance Fund. The point that resonated most with me suggests switching up the rules by which we view nonprofit viability:
One step is to change the language nonprofits use. We should never view ourselves as second-class citizens begging for scraps. Nonprofits are corporations that produce jobs, stimulate the economy, and promote more sustainable and vibrant communities. Nonprofits are businesses that exist to fill voids that cannot or should not be filled by for-profit corporations or government.
I am pleased to see that change is happening. Nonprofit leaders are talking more about their capacity to carry out their missions and less about overhead. More and more grant makers recognize the need for nonprofits to have a surplus and build reserves. Donors and boards recognize that growth isn’t always good, and buying that building isn’t always such a great idea after all.
As a fan of the nonprofit sector, I also recognize that nonprofit and for-profit work doesn’t have to be oppositional. I’m curious to watch emerging trends in the nonprofit sector as social ventures continue to blur the formerly-distinct lines between mission and profit. And let’s remember who keeps the “civil” in civil society!
[Climbs off soapbox.]
More grist for the mill: Job Crunch Sends More Young People to Nonprofit Work