It is a Good Thing for Non-Profits to Raise Money

There is a great post on Seth Godin’s blog today by Sasha Dichter called In Defense of Raising Money: A Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs. Sasha makes the point that the actual act of raising awareness and funding for a non-profit’s cause does good for that cause and is a worthy endeavor:

Do you really believe that the “real work” is JUST the “programs” you operate?  (the school you run; the meals you serve; the vaccines you develop; the patients you treat?)   Do you really believe that it ends there?  Do you really believe that in today’s world, where change can come from anyone and anywhere, that convincing people and building momentum and excitement and a movement really doesn’t matter?

And I love how he makes the point that has been on my mind for a long time: Non-profits do a service to those who give by providing a way for them to invest their money not for financial return, but for the good of others. This is as worthy an investment as anything you put in the stock market. More so. Both for-profits and and non-profits serve critical roles in society. Jim Collins has said this really well: “If all our society had was effective businesses, we would not be a great nation. We must have great social sector organizations, too.” Here is how Sasha Dichter puts it in the post:

Our society has done a spectacular job of creating enormous amounts of wealth.  At the same time, wealth is associated with power, and not having wealth can feel like not having power.  So going to someone who has money and saying, “You have the resources, please give some of them to me” doesn’t feel like a conversation between equals.

How about this instead: “You are incredibly good at making money.  I’m incredibly good at making change.  The change I want to make in the world, unfortunately, does not itself generate much money.  But man oh man does it make change.  It’s a hugely important change.  And what I know about making this change is as good and as important as what you know about making money.  So let’s divide and conquer – you keep on making money, I’ll keep on making change. And if you can lend some of your smarts to the change I’m trying to make, well that’s even better.  But most of the time, we both keep on doing what we’re best at, and if we keep on working together the world will be a better place.

  • Brendt Waters

    While I have no qualms whatsoever with your point, I do think it’s pretty funny that this would be noted by the senior director of strategy at DG (especially after something like the $5 book sale).

  • Matt

    Brendt: Nice observation. I’ve been enjoying working out my philosophy on these things lately. Here is some of my main thinking so far:

    – Nonprofits, and especially ministries like DG, exist to do things that they couldn’t do if they were for-profit. Things like a 5 dollar book sale. Nonprofits, and especially ministries, should be radical in their service to others and making their resources and services available as inexpensively and effectively as possible.

    – The opportunity to give to a nonprofit is an opportunity to invest. Not in financial returns, but something even better: good works. So nonprofits provide the opportunity for people to invest in good works on a large scale. Thus, what nonprofits do _serves_ those who donate. We are not simply being served by our donors, although that is certainly true, but also serving them.

    I think this is exciting and will be blogging on these ideas in the future.

  • Brendt Waters

    Matt, good expansion of your points. I can see the wheels turning. 😉

  • Wilfred

    Seeing this Blog post for first time today and love most of what you write in your other posts but this one is extremely dangerous. Consider the following points:

    1) A lot of people use giving to charity as a means to silence their nagging conscience about the huge differences in wealth that there is in the world.
    2) A lot of non-profit organizations use that bothered conscience as a leverage to (successfully) generate income (almost like the Roman Catholic indulgence system)
    3) What the Non-profit sector wants to make their donors believe is: “give your money=compassion”. This is a very very serious lie, that a lot of Christians believe these days. The meaning of Compassion is “suffering together” and I wonder if that can be achieved by giving from our abundance and by out sourcing that to the Nonprofit sector.
    4) The non-profit sector wants to make Compassion easy and convenient for us people who have too much money like MacDonalds makes eating out fast and convenient. But like eating the McDonalds food is unhealthy, the current convenient Mission and Aid industry is dangerous for our souls. Compassion is all about raw inconvenience and suffering.
    5) Splitting (1) making money and (2) using it for social change into two different entities is seldom a good idea. It is like me telling my wife, you are the person in our family that helps people and I will concentrate on the making of the money. Utterly bad idea and I can give you thousands of failure examples that started with motives as stated above by Sascha Dichter but this is not how God has made us and wants us to operate.

    Sorry if I come across very black and white, I know the topic is more complicated but I get very upset with sayings like: “If all our society had was effective businesses, we would not be a great nation.” (Jim Collins) I like to say “If all our society had was effective businesses, we would NOT need social sector organizations at ALL!”

    So my point is that the way we run and look at business is utterly wrong.

    In trying to fix the real problem (ineffective business) we have created an even bigger problem and that is the separation of making money and making positive change in this world.

    I would love to discuss this further with you!

    Nampula, Mozambique

  • Veera

    In every system there are good people and bad people. in my view giving is BIBLE principle. when it gets into the wrong hands we end up with more disappointment. That is why one need to be very careful about the ground he is sowing. not all non profits are misusing the money. when somebody is able to eat or get some sort of help with my money where i can not reach him personally, i am very happy. i am giving with the love GOD placed in my heart. with the wisdom given by GOD we should choose the right place and right ministry.

    there is no harm in raising money for non profits. think if your employer is not paying you money for your work, how you are going to continue to contribute for the growth of the organization. salary is one of the motivation factors for many of us to continue in jobs. similarly if non profits does not get supported by us, how they are going to carry out their activities. dont look at amounts, the money you are contributing gives great moral boost to the genuine non profits.

    the change in society do come with collaboration from all of us. as human beings this collaboration is also mandate given by GOD in BIBLE to help the poor, widows, orphans. we should give. at the same time the non profits also should keep in mind that people do not have money trees in their backyard to give. it is the sweat of the people and they should use it genuinely, effectively without loosing trust of its supporters.