I’ve been pondering this for sometime and wondered why there is a negative connotation with the name “nonprofit” sector.
What’s in a name.
Putting the “non” in front of profit comes across as negating and misleading. For a “nonprofit” to survive, they need a “profit”. Where does the “non” come from? The name does not convey the true social or mission-driven purpose.
Defining ourselves by something we’re not is pretty ridiculous. That’s like calling a woman a ‘non-man’.
Words that come to mind include: social, community, impact, benefit, public, purpose, and mission. Perhaps what’s needed is a re-branding focus group to brainstorm the ideal name and give it positive meaning. There are consequences to changing the name both positive and negative. Nonprofit Sector is currently a universal name that is entrenched in our minds. It would take a colossal amount of work to spread the word about the name change. Is it worth it?
This dilemma rests on whether to spend time, valuable resources and money to focus on a name change rather than investing in a perception makeover. Perhaps the first task in consciousness raising is to define what it means to be a nonprofit. Just as the negative name implies, our consciousness has associated nonprofits as “beggars” for money. The idea of “begging” for donations, rather than “earning” donations can bring about change. The problem with the way things are today is that nonprofits have to spend an inordinate amount of time justifying their mission instead of just doing it.
Old nonprofit perceptions need to change.
Old perceptions in thinking that nonprofits cannot be profitable need to change. It all comes down to power versus weakness. For-Profit businesses are viewed as powerful, while nonprofits are viewed as weak. The lack of understanding and appreciation for what nonprofits can achieve and how they can benefit society is at the heart of the problem.
Unlike businesses, as our programs become more successful, we increase in costs without a matching increase in revenues. An yet, we’ve also internalized this myth that businesses are more efficient and effective, leading us to adapt crappy systems and habits, such as inequitable hiring practices.
Wishlist for changing nonprofit perceptions.
On the top of the wish list for changing perceptions and associating nonprofits with positive impact, are the following 3 items:
- Paying nonprofit professionals what they are worth.
- Let nonprofits focus on achieving long-term impact instead of reporting on which funders paid for what part of their operations.
- Rally everyone to work together to address social challenges.
Let’s embrace what it means to be a nonprofit and how we can bring about change. In other words, it’s not so much about the name as it is the perception. We need to come together with the importance of what it means to be a nonprofit. Branding nonprofits can change thinking. Money can be allocated to addressing fundamental challenges such as funding dynamics, lack of diversity and burnout.
What do you think?
Adapted from Nonprofit With Balls Blog.