The uncharitable nature of charity culture: what happens when you don’t drink the Kool-Aid

The uncharitable nature of charity culture

Recently I spoke with a colleague in the nonprofit sector who had decided to leave the organisation in which she occupied a senior role due to the level of dysfunction she had observed – and experienced – within it.

When I asked what had driven her to do so, sadly her responses (for the most part) beat a well-trod path: I’ve heard and also experienced many versions of the same throughout my time in the industry. However she also spoke about an aspect that was newer to me – or rather, one that had not yet become as clear for me as it did when we sat and talked.

So what had she observed as a result of her time in the organisation that was familiar? Several items featured. One was the lack of professionalism exhibited by members of the organisation’s executive and board. Read More

Working in a nonprofit organisation: the good, the bad and the ugly

Working in a nonprofit organisation

A lot of people would like to work for a nonprofit and of course a lot of people already do. So what do people who do work in nonprofit organisations think about their workplaces? Nonprofit Explore founder Victoria Lister is a nonprofit professional who has worked across a variety of organisations and in roles at all levels. She shares some of her experiences here.

I’ve been involved in the nonprofit sector for a combined 40+ years.

No, I’m not that old – I’ve simply often worked in a number of roles simultaneously. I’ve been a volunteer, an employee, a management committee member on numerous occasions, a locum CEO, a project manager, a marketing and business development manager and, as a consultant, have worked and continue to work in pro bono and paid capacities with many social and nonprofit enterprises, the majority of which have had charitable status.

The types of organisations I’ve worked in or with range from community centres to breed associations; from human, legal, refugee and education service providers to economic development organisations, women’s services and many more. Some have been community-serving, others member-serving. Either way, you could definitely say I’ve seen nonprofit life from all angles and certainly from both sides of the boardroom table.

So what exactly have I seen? Here’s the black and white of it. Read More

Why are nonprofits so dysfunctional?

Image of words on a scrabble board Self and Altruism

I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector in various capacities for a while now. My first foray was in 1994, on a sub-committee of a national peak body in the food industry. Since then I’ve been a nonprofit employee, manager, CEO, project manager, volunteer support worker, board member, chair, treasurer and, from 2010, a consultant.

As a result, I’ve had up close and personal encounters with many, many nonprofit people and organisations. The majority of these entities have been community-serving, small-to-medium enterprises operating in the human services domain, with some member-focused, business-oriented organisations such as sporting clubs in the mix, as well as social enterprises.

Many have offered very lovely opportunities for purposeful connection and growth and have been a joy to work with. However, I’m sad to say the great majority of people and organisations I have met or worked in or with have presented a far uglier face than we might associate with a sector that seeks to work for co-operative, harmonious ends, if not to do good. Read More

Why are nonprofits so complicated?

Why are nonprofits so complicated?

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.

Read More

Nonprofit Explore: what is it about?


  • Highly publicised causes such as breast cancer
  • The household names we donate to
  • Starving children’s charity ads on late-night TV
  • After-hours tele-marketing fundraising calls
  • The moments we reach for a few coins to give in the street…

…unless we are intimately involved in the not-for-profit sector, chances are our awareness of it is limited to the above. Read More