The nonprofit chasm

Here’s how a former CEO (for about a decade) of one of a well-known, well-respected U.S. charity started his story about his time there:

“It was a federated structure, so as CEO I raised only 20% of the money.  So of course I had no power and no authority.  Sure, I had it on paper, but really I had nothing.”

So here’s the chasm we have to cross in our sector: the good CEOs obviously get it, they understand that who you take money from is who you are; and they understand the inextricable link between what funds come in (and who brings them in) and power, strategy, and decision-making within the organization.

Yet at the same time there’s general agreement that nonprofit fundraising is still mostly broken, that fundraising jobs are career dead-ends, that fundraising is “overhead” (read: waste, something to be minimized).

Here’s a thought: let’s borrow a page from the corporate playbook.  Let’s take our best, highest-potential up-and-comers and put them through multi-year leadership rotations through ALL major functions in the organization (and no, it doesn’t count if they do 7 program rotations, one for each of your program areas, and then 1 “back office” rotation to cover HR, marketing, and fundraising).  That way no one gets to the top without having been on the front lines.

Oh, we also need a little more rabble-rousing.

One thought on “The nonprofit chasm

  1. Interesting idea! Taking a page out of the corporate playbook makes sense. Fundraising is an operating expense for nonprofits, just as marketing is for businesses. And serving in all positions could well make you see problems more clearly, increase your passion for your mission, and improve your ability to engage people in fighting the good fight with you.

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