The other day I was talking to a friend who also works in the nonprofit sector. We were discussing the complexity that seems to characterise so much of nonprofit life. As many corporate newcomers find when they first arrive in the sector, nonprofits can be incredibly convoluted. Gone is the relative simplicity of the profit motive: enter mission, values, multiple stakeholders and boards; then add complicated funding arrangements, legal and tax requirements, financial struggle (for many) and so on. It’s hard work and I’ve seen many corporate folk flee the scene in despair.
Yes, the cost of ‘doing good’ can be high. But the question remains: why are nonprofits so complicated – how did they get that way?
As we talked the answer arrived: nonprofits are complicated because they are forever trying to compensate for inadequacies in human behaviour.
I ran into a former colleague recently, at a conference for nonprofit organisations in the human services arena. We spoke delightfully for about thirty minutes across a range of topics, mostly to do with nonprofits.
My friend opened by asking me whether or not I believed nonprofits should provide human services, or whether this was the job of the government. I replied although some people think it’s the job of the state to provide for its people, I didn’t necessarily share that view (although neither was I opposed to it).
Equally, I continued, I didn’t necessarily believe the task should fall to nonprofits and, potentially, there was no reason why for-profits couldn’t also deliver human services, as many already do.
Why did I think this? Read More
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