Last week, someone sent me a Chronicle of Philanthropy article. The piece referenced a study released where over 12 million baby boomers, when surveyed, wanted to start their own nonprofit in the next decade. Is that good or downright scary?
Calling All Boomers: Don’t Start More Nonprofits, by Mark Rosenman
Here was my response in the Chronicle’s comments section:
I largely agree with Mr. Rosenman’s point of view, both the caution and admiration he expressed for those boomers. What so many people don’t have is a broader view of the social sector and instead they have the admirable, inspired, but too narrow view of the particular cause they care about. It was far easier to start a non-profit than a for-profit, and it is exponentially harder to sustain an effective, impactful non-profit than a for-profit organization. And there isn’t a free market system to shake things out, i.e. if a non-profit can manage to keep raising money (and many do living hand-to-mouth) it can continue to exist. A for-profit eventually has to have enough paying customers to be profitable or it goes out of business. The end result is hundreds of thousands of small, struggling non-profits that can barely survive much yet scale to create true societal impact vs. thousands of non-profits that have truly scaled to a point where they are relatively sustainable and have verifiable positive impact in our communities. That may sound a little harsh, but it’s true.
What I’d hope every boomer would do is take the time to find a non-profit that is already doing what they hope to see happen in the world and then jump on board and support it. 95% of the time such an organization already exists in a community. Yes, there is also the need for that other 5% – innovation, entrepreneurship, and new non-profits, but that is far more the exception than the rule. This belief is ultimately based on a passionate desire to see stronger families, communities, and the environment. Unfortunately our current system, which makes it so easy to start another and another non-profit, runs exactly counter to that ultimate desire we’d all like to see.
Other commenters talked about the difficulty of finding places to volunteer or communities to plug in to, which is cited as a major reason why people start their own nonprofit. There are already over 100 comments on the post with lots of great insights.
Any other thoughts to this, and how we can create a tighter community of do-gooders? Is that even the main issue? Go ahead and comment below or here.