March, 2010The nonprofit sector often suffers from a propensity toward niceness. Indeed, according to a recent study by researchers at Stanford and two other business schools, nonprofits are perceived as "warm, generous and caring organizations, but lacking the competence to produce high-quality goods or services and run financially sound businesses."
In other words, we think they are nice -- but not competent.
But this perception stems from a reality that is often imposed on the sector. Nonprofits are encouraged to collaborate instead of compete, hold onto under-performing staff, accept martyr-like salaries, smile and nod when funders push them in tangential directions and keep quiet when government programs want the same services at a lower price.
This demand that the sector play "nice" is the result of (at least) two things. One is its focus on the social. The sector exists to address and (hopefully) solve social problems. Thus, by definition, it's socially oriented and has a tendency toward an inclusive, consensus-based approach to doing business. Secondly, the sector is structured so that a nonprofit has many more constituents to answer to than its for-profit counterparts do.
These include, for example, customers such as: 1). those that benefit from the services they provide (the clients) and 2). those who pay for those services (funders). And nonprofits are led by volunteer committees (board of directors) that need to be corralled. The end results is that funders, volunteers, board members, staff and clients must somehow be brought together and moved toward a common direction.
This demand to collaborate, build consensus -- and play nice -- probably helps explain the label of inefficiency that often gets attached to the sector.
But in order to innovate and work toward real solutions, in order to get out from under consensus-based mediocrity, nonprofits need to break free from the niceness trap. They need to get meaner, uglier, messier.
In other words, they need to:
Enough with the nice. If we're really going to get things done, we have to take a stand, be bold, be honest -- and do the right, hard thing.
To read more great articles from Nell Edgington, visit http://www.socialvelocity.net/
We Love Animals
Lou Bailey, Director of Alumni Relations and Planned Giving at St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Austin, sent us this adorable photo of her rat terrier, Roo...complete with reading glasses! http://www.sstx.org
Dixie Neeley, the Founder of the Triple Me Mac Equine Sanctuary in Bulverde, rescued this off-the-track thoroughbred from a boys ranch. Malt & Jam was starved and had a broken shoulder. The picture was taken last summer - he is totally healed and healthy! http://www.triplememac.org
The International Exotic Animal Sanctuary recently became home to two tiny American black bear cubs, one male and one female, who were found abandoned in their wild Alaska. These two were young, helpless, and unable to survive on their own. As such, they were transported to their new forever home in Texas. At IEAS, they will have 1.5 acres of forest, meadow, and grass to thrive in. With the help of Emotional Enrichment, they will learn to find security and trust in their new family. IEAS staff is eager and excited to make the lives of these cubs as amazing as possible, and they can't wait to watch them live like wild bears in a safe, caring environment!