I’ve heard several stories lately about Executive Directors being competitive with one another and frankly, it irritates me.

What’s the point? Why waste the energy feuding over service delivery?

I remember many years ago working for someone like that.  He was so quick to point out the flaws in our “competitors” and talk trash about them.  I was quite uncomfortable with it, but wasn’t sure what to say. After all, he’d been there for years and I was new.  When I did speak up and rock the boat, I was let go.  What made it worse for me was that it was a Christian organization.  Surely Christian nonprofit leaders wouldn’t speak ill of others, right?

Now what I know is that there’s no need for competition in the world of nonprofits.

There are plenty of people in need for all of us.  And if you do happen to completely meet the need and work yourself out of a job, isn’t that a good thing?

There are plenty of donors out there and more than plenty of money for all of us.  If everyone who gives to charity gave 1% more, we’d all be cash-flush!  So, if we as professional fundraisers engaged our donors and encouraged them to upgrade their giving just a tiny bit, we’d be able to fully fund our mission.

How would it change things if people stopped comparing themselves or their organizations to others and simply focused on the people we’re here to serve?

Would our service delivery improve?  Would staff morale improve?  Would staff turnover improve?  Maybe nothing would change, but I doubt it.  I think the elimination of all that negative energy from nonprofit leaders would have a big impact on the work we nonprofits are doing.

So, I challenge you to stop thinking about your fellow nonprofits as competitors.  Look for ways you can partner.  Or at the very least, stop saying or thinking anything negative about them.  Focus on engaging your donors and fully funding your mission.

It’s much more exciting!

  1. Harry J Tucci Jr says:

    I was shocked to read this article. As a non profit professional for over 30 years I am disappointed that any organization would view another non-profit as a rival or a threat. There is so much that needs to be done to make this world a better place and we need to focus on that mission. Any other non-profit is a potential partner, an ally, a strategic resource for leveraging your strengths.

    We need to look at the playing field not as competitors out to steal or cheat us, but rather as joint venture partners who can help us enhance our mission effectiveness. Thanks for calling attention to a disturbing aspect.

  2. Here, here, Sandy. I read an artcile by Dan Pallotta last year that inspired me to write my own blog post on the same subject:

    Dan says there are literally hundreds of nonprofits dedicated to solving problems like hunger and homelessness– and so far none of them have been able to do so. How much of that collective failure is due to organizational fragmentation and their inability or unwillingness to streamline and consolidate? Dan pines for a kind of Apollo Program for the social problems he wants solved–a galvanizing vision and commitment of human attention like the one that followed President Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.

    I challenged association professionals to identify their own Apollo Programs–the one overarching goal that all the organizations in their market can and should be working together on. Imagine what could be achieved in your world if all its players stopped focusing on their own success and starting working together to achieve it?

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