random robin

to profit or to nonprofit

“Nonprofits can be a real racket.”
– Robin Jester, in a blog on 2.17.09

The past few jobs I have held for any length of time have been in the nonprofit world. People who have no concept of nonprofits, upon hearing that I work for a nonprofit, often ask things like, “what you like don’t get paid?” The truth is that some of the upper level executive staff at national nonprofits make more money than you – whoever you may be at the moment – and sometimes a ton more.

Some people feel like no one should make any money at a “nonprofit” because it’s like a misnomer. Well, actually, it’s not. Staff at nonprofits are essential to actually getting anything done, though admittedly at times, the staff are so underpaid and overworked that they slack off. But that would be like, oh every for-profit corporation too. I mean some of you reading this right now are supposed to be doing any number of tasks at work, but instead you are goofing off and visiting with me. Not that I blame you of course because I’m just that interesting.

Now here is where I could launch into a rhetoric on the need for nonprofits and the differences in structures between a nonprofit and everything else (ie, for profit or publicly held corporations). But guess what… I won’t. What I will say is that in some ways, nonprofits could teach a thing or two to businesses that have failed miserably in recent months, focusing first on grantwriting.

I’ve been part of the grantwriting process over the years, and let me tell those of you who have never done it – it ain’t a walk in the park. Some people have this absurd notion that you just write a letter, much like a Dear Santa wish list, and tell a heart-warming/heart-wrenching story and someone writes you a check.

In some ways, I feel that everyone should have to write a grant for their own salary. The process forces you to look at what exactly you do, how you get it done, did you get it done in the past, and why should we think you’ll get it done now. It gives you a driving sense of purpose and urgency that if you don’t get it done, you will not get any more money. Plus you have to check in and report on everything you’re doing and if you’ve stuck by your guidelines and regulations at given intervals throughout the year or whatever time period that grant covers.

There are these kinds of checkpoints in the corporate world in the guise of Employee Reviews or ROI type reports (return on investment). But let’s not kid ourselves, every organization has slackers and no matter where you go or what industry you are in people get away with a whole lotta nuttin.

So all I’m leading up to here is that I am currently trying to write a couple grants and trying to decide what outcomes I am looking for exactly.  Is this something I really (a) want to do, (b) feel that I can do, and (c) believe needs to be done? It’s a good process to make yourself sit through and puts a lot of things in perspective. So now I go through a process in my head for lots of decisions I make – like right now, I am thinking about eating peppermint oreos and doing a quick outcomes based assessment… 2 oreos, extra mile of running… oh who am I kidding.


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