But We Are a NON Profit!

Think back, have you ever used this phrase to cover something ? Be honest.

I admit having used this phrase a few times, but only early in my career, as I came to both loathe and fear those words. Used as both a bludgeon and shield, those words make me cringe. I am not sure if it is the beginning; using but, a negative or subtractive word, when describing your organization, or just the idea that being a nonprofit alone needs this kind of description.

One of the first times I heard this used in such a cringe-worthy fashion was during a price conversation about renting a ballroom in one of the nicer hotels in Santa Monica between the organizer and hotel sales manager. Okay, nice, ballroom, hotel and Santa Monica should be sufficient to give you a clue about the relative cost for this event. (Having had a few events here, I was past my sticker shock). When quoted the base price, the organizer replied with shock, “But We Are A Non Profit”!

We Are Not:

To which the sales manager replied, “We are not.

I do think that nonprofit organization ought to be allowed to any discounts or considerations that a vendor or service provider may offer, but I don’t like the idea that simply because someone has a nonprofit that they are entitled to special and automatic accommodations.

Those who hide sloppy business practices, inattention to internal controls, poor record keeping and even tolerate lackadaisical behavior from board members have no excuse: sure, they are overworked and underpaid. Sure, they have to listen to nonsense from everyone in the world who knows better about how they could do it better; by the way, why don’t you have a celebrity spokesperson?

But, ( there is that word again) you do know better, don’t you? You know what is required and how your firm should operate.

Using a nonprofit status as some kind of disability rankles me. Often it is offered as an excuse for all sorts of shortcomings, I feel that diminishes everyone else. As a longtime proponent of strong business practices as a matter of course for nonprofit organizations, the ability to do business without this disclaimer is important. I am quite proud of working in the nonprofit arena, and I would like to see this phrase instead: ”AND, we are a nonprofit!”

And:

Do your homework, stick it out and make sure the acknowledgments, receipts and books are kept up to date. I know it can be tedious, and you ( and I ) would rather be out in the field, but this is the stuff that allows us to do the work we choose.

Be proud of what you stand for and how you stand for it: keeping your internal ducks in a row demonstrates professionalism above and beyond the commitment to your cause. That combination leaves a strong positive impression that lingers, and hopefully banishes that phrase from your lexicon.

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Cindy Lauren - Lauren Associates - non profit consultingCindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting

As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.

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Image Credit:
I wake up screaming by marsmet525 on Flickr