OK, the debate on this blog has been raging for two weeks. It has drawn over 50 comments, been referenced across a range of blogs, and yesterday was featured by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. I hope we have a lot more discussions like these. But now it is time to wrap this one up.
In the comments section, it has been pointed out that there is probably far more agreement on the issues than most people realize. Some of the points of contention are in fact not contended by anyone. Have you ever had an argument with a significant other where a whole set of issues came up that weren’t even part of the initial dispute? By the end, you sometimes wonder what you’re even fighting about and how it all seems to have gone off course.
So let’s do this. Below, I’m going to distill each point of contention down to a short question. I’d like everyone who have been actively participating and/or reading along, to answer each question with a simple “yes” or “no” in the comment section. That way we can get to the root of this debate and see whether the real issue is fundamental disagreement or a lack of shared vocabulary.
- Do you believe that nonprofits that provide free services to other nonprofits should decline to provide those services to nonprofits that are bad at what they do (poor at achieving their mission)?
- Do you believe that philanthropic funders should focus their resources on the highest performing nonprofits (the ones that have the best record or prospects for mission achievement)?
- Do you think that earned income strategies are preferable to philanthropic funding strategies?
- Do you think it is inappropriate, at a nonprofit competition for philanthropic resources, for a moderator to say, “Some nonprofits just suck”?
- Will you keep participating in these types of cross-disciplinary conversations as new issues develop on this blog?
3. No [often they are – but I think the question’s asking whether they necessarily are]
I am breaking the rules a bit…
1. Usually No
2. It Depends
3. Emphatically No
1. No when the services will help them improve; Yes when doing so limits the org’s capacity to serve more effective clients
1 – this is not a “yes or no” question. It very much depends
3. another very nuanced question that doesn’t yield a ‘yes or no’ answer from my pov.
5. Yes, if/as time permits.
1. Yes, it may help the other nonprofit improve.
4. No, given the criteria for the label are understood by everyone.
1.Need to know more before I can answer. I hate hypotheticals.
2.Not black and white either. Really depends on mission of the foundation. If you are funding small, unproven organizations, still in start up mode, then the answer is no.
4. Let people say what they want.
5. This is the one question I can answer yes without equivocation.
1. No, assuming the services will help the org achieve their mission.
4. Yes, unless “measuring nonprofit suckage” is a session-length discussion on the agenda.
5. Yes, certainly.
1. There should be a clear (consistent) policy as to when/how services are made available. (It’s up to them/their board.)
2. Philanthropic funders should work to promote the causes they care about and a healthy ecology of organizations in that field. They should shape their funding strategy to improve performance where there is room for improvement and clear benefit in so doing.
3. Preferable from what side? As an outsider to an NPO I would say no, look to the ecology and see what makes sense. From within an NPO, I might feel better about having some revenue, depending on what kind of service I am offering and whether it would improve ability to offer services to others (potential for subsidizing other work that others who need said service wouldn’t be able pay for.)
4. I don’t see the statement as particularly helpful to anyone.
5. I’m here for the long-haul.
1.No, but prioritize the good.
3.Yes, but both are needed
4.No, it is quite accurate an honest
5.Yes, whenever I can come up for air.