Forget lessons to myself. There's a crap-ton of super basic information that I wish other people knew about the nonprofit world.
I wasn't sure where to start with this topic, so I appreciate the Keilburger brothers* and their latest column for helping me focus. It touches on virtually every annoying nonprofit sector trope floating around the interwebs these days.
Starting with ....
Oh my gosh, people, nonprofits and charities are not the same thing. This is Voluntary Sector 101-level stuff.
"Nonprofit" just means that an incorporated body won't accumulate profit to be divided amongst one or more shareholders. It does not mean that the organization has a mission that has anything to do with the public interest, social good, or rainbows and unicorns.
"Charities" have public interest mandates and must be approved by the government. All charities are nonprofits, but most nonprofits are not charities.
The brothers create confusion when they write:
We admire idealism and anyone who wants to take on a social issue with their advocacy or financial assets. Society needs more passionate people who want to change the world. But the world doesn’t need more charities.
The words matter
Nonprofit organizations can exist for decidedly un-charitable purposes.
Teaching people to think all nonprofits are "idealistic" or focused on "social issues" makes it easier for people with private, special, or even dark motives to hijack public discourse. It encourages the public to think that a name or a corporate structure tell them all they need to know about an organization, and that's just not true. It's what the organization does that matters.
Repeat after me: For-profit does not mean evil. Non-profit does not mean good.
(*The brothers K have, of course, proven their mettle in the nonprofit sector. Their credentials speak for themselves.)