The social sector today is one that would try any nonprofit soul. News stories about nonprofits in trouble are becoming common, congress is ready to place limits on how nonprofits fundraise and administer funds and public confidence in philanthropy is at an all time low. Charitable tax benefits are in serious jeopardy, overall charitable giving is still low and government grants are continually being cut. Most importantly, communities want (and need) more than ever from their local nonprofit organizations – but are not able or willing to provide funds for the expansion of programs or organizational capacity.
To further challenge our overwhelmed sector, donors are insisting on higher efficiency and provable outcomes, but are hesitant to invest in the organizational capacity to make this possible. The country is exploding with 3000 to 4000 new nonprofits every month, without regard for the added competition for limited capacity investments, program funding, staff and volunteers. The crisis is like nothing the sector has ever faced, and the current response is to remain silent in it’s own defense and simply try to survive.
The Nonprofit Plague of Mediocrity
There is one thing, however, that philanthropy has been consistently good at over the years – meeting, and even celebrating, mediocrity. Consider all the annual reports, annual dinners, and monthly board meetings that report and celebrate the same things over and over. Whether it is to make a donor happy, make board members feel successful, or convince the community of the need and worth of the nonprofit organization, the only real result being celebrated is mediocrity.
I realize this has nothing to do with the degree to which various stakeholders want nonprofits to be successful. We all want the organizations we support to reach a top level of success – to be a “10.” But when our levels of knowledge and development are operating at only a level two or three, and collaboration and networking are nonexistent, we doom ourselves to constantly struggle and still only reach mediocrity.
The Future Success of Nonprofits
For now, the nonprofit sector survives solely because of it’s self-exploiting workforce, which will continually do more with less until it finally breaks. Therefore, eliminating the organizational weaknesses that lead to continuous mediocrity is critical to the future success (and survival) of the social sector.
There’s no magic bullet for anything of great worth, and this is most definitely true for social change. But by focusing all of our energy on just one piece of the social innovation puzzle, we run the risk of less change — or none at all I recognize that any effort to put a stake in the ground and change society is going to be a humbling experience, especially when there are so many facets to the challenge; which is why I am asking for your help. Together, I am confident we can cure this nonprofit plague of mediocrity.
Connect With Me
If you would like to know more, or would like to follow my explorations and viewpoints as they continue to evolve, please connect with me through one or more of the social media outlets listed below. I will also be posting biweekly on this blog, and would love for you to join me in my journey of discovering the best way to eliminate unnecessary mediocrity.