After 27 Years, I had an “A-ha moment”

April 23, 2021

Have you ever had that feeling that something just “clicked” for you? Even after decades of working in the same profession? (This goes to reinforce my theory that you should be open to constant learning and improving). Well, this a-ha moment happened to me the other day. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Jason Lewis’ podcast, The Fundraising Talent Podcast (and have even been a guest twice). His latest episode was with Hannah Berger and spoke of fundraisers playing a role in the redistribution of money.

This is one of the longer episodes on the podcast, but totally worth it! There’s a quote from Hanna where she says:

“The non profit  sector exists to address systemic inequalities. That’s it.”

Hannah Berger

Wow. For some reason, that resonated with me more than anything I have heard in quite a while. So many of the systemic inequalities are based around race and socio-economics. These past 14 months have pulled back the curtain to show just how messed up our systems are. COVID had disproportionately affected so many people of color and lower-income strata. Their rates of infection are so much higher than the general population. And, their rates of infection are astronomically higher when compared to the affluent.

Whether your organization provides access to medical care for those that otherwise would be unable to access it or provides universal audiences to the arts, your organization is attempting to fix our systems’ inequalities. Every non-profit has some form of this notion embedded in its mission.

A-ha: Should we Fold up Shop?

Hannah and Jason further say that the non-profit’s ultimate vision would be to put itself out of business. That the inequalities and barriers to success have been dismantled. I specifically wrote about that concept here. (It was almost two years ago to the day!) As non-profits, we must have a genuine desire to close up shop because we are no longer needed. We could see a cure for cancer (think polio). Or, as we strive to change society, we will see greater distribution of wealth and opportunities.

Jason compares the running of non-profits with the running of Walmart. Boards and bosses in the charitable sector are often looking for the metrics that Walmart uses. Things like average spend, predictable revenue streams, etc. But the rub is that Walmart would never want to close up shop one day. That is not their mission. There are different sets of motivations as to the for-profit and non-for-profit businesses.

So many charities must put their own egos aside and look at the greater societal good. I spoke with a charity last year who had essentially accomplished their mission. They were looking to pivot to another raison d’être (reason to be). I think that over the decades, this organization grew to be quite a workforce, and the fear set in that these people would be without a job. To be blunt, so what?! Is that really in the organization’s best interest to keep going for the sake of existing? I believe that few people would have the moral fortitude to put themselves out of a job, but that may be exactly what is needed.

Just as I had an a-ha moment concerning the role of non-profits, I think all of the readers here can be open to their own epiphany. BUT, you must be willing to challenge the status quo constantly.

Until next week,