Capitalize on the uniqueness of the sector.
In one of my last few classes, we discussed challenges in the nonprofit sector and what is unique about the nonprofit sector. As we began our two lists it was evident the challenges list was much longer. It rather saddened me; the sector I love really has these many challenges?
However, I am not worried, I know there are many good things going on in the nonprofit sector, and we really need to emphasize our good aspects. So, here is a list of the unique aspects of the nonprofit sector.
- We can do a lot with a little amount of money. Nonprofit organizations are professionals at making a huge impact with a little amount of money. Sometimes it may seem like the lack of money in the sector is one of things holding the sector back, but there is a plethora of innovative nonprofit leaders that know how to work with whatever they have. Nonprofit leaders make it happen no matter what the circumstances. And just because they don’t have a lot of money, doesn’t mean they don’t pay their employees 🙂
- Nonprofits have a knack for working at the grassroots level and mobilizing communities. Organizations like the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Voting Rights Movement were supported by the work of the nonprofit sector. Today, like the time during these movements, many nonprofit organizations start with members of the community, banding together to fight a cause they believe in, or to make their community a better place to live. Because the nonprofit sector is so close to community, in most cases, organizations know how to bring the people together. It’s rare you see the McDonald’s down the road mobilizing individuals to run their microwaves!
- Our sector is built on giving instead of getting. Our sector is the only one in the world (one could argue for government, but their argument would be quit week), not built on the need for individual profits and making money for ourselves. Although many nonprofits make thousands a year, they give their profits back to the community they are working in. There are no bonus or stock option incentives for employees, but they are paid a decent wage, and the work they are doing gets continually supported through the extra money they raise each year. You don’t see Walmart corporation not giving bonuses, in order to enhance their educational program for youth in the inner cities, now do you!
- Our leaders are truly passionate. Ask any organization about the passion of their founder and I am sure they would all say, “Our founder was the greatest, most passionate person I have ever known or heard about.” Nonprofit leaders created their organizations out of need, and individuals who see the need for this organization are always passionate about making sure the community gets it. Many times nonprofit organizations are created because someone was left out of something or can’t get something they need, and need creates passion in individuals to get what they want. Individuals who care about others and want to serve community needs created the nonprofit sector, and those individuals have all the passion in the world for what they are doing.
- Nonprofit employees are truly hard working. Nonprofit sector employees, most of the time, become passionate about a cause and really go out on the streets to fight for it. And, as mentioned above, they have to work hard to do something with practically nothing. There is a lot of burnout in the sector, because the individuals working in organizations are so passionate, but the great nonprofit leaders find the balance they need to work hard in the sector and get things done!
- There is a lot of room for innovation in the sector. Although many nonprofit organizations get stuck in tradition and old business practices, there is a ton of room for innovation in the nonprofit sector. I think this is one of the reasons so many young people are drawn to the nonprofit sector. There is room for anyone with an idea to execute it for their cause. There is risk with innovation in the sector, as in any sector in America, but if innovation is planned and well executed, there is room for it here in the nonprofit sector. Check out Kiva.org or Ashoka.org to see some innovative nonprofit professionals.
Have you had any experiences with the unique aspects of the nonprofit sector? What other good things do you see in the sector?