When nonprofits deny their mission

I have a strange collection.


Over the years, I’ve been earwitness to several nonprofit organizations when they directly denied that they do what their name, mission statement, or marketing says they do. I’ve collected those denials.


I’m not going to share any of my collection of nonprofit self-denials with you, because most of them are fine organizations that have since recovered from their folly.


But the scope and audacity of their self-denials are breathtaking. It’s as if an organization called Save the Trees had said We don’t save trees. Or if a charity called People United to Love People went around saying We don’t love people — and we aren’t united.


That’s what my collection is like. I’m not exaggerating. It’s made up of direct, clear — and often emphatic, (sometimes public) denials of their missions.


What they mean when they say We don’t save trees was generally one of two things:



  1. “We don’t only save trees. We do a lot of other cool things too.”

    or

  2. “Our method for saving trees is so elegant and complex that ‘save the trees’ seems like a bumpkinish caricature of what we do.”

Both of which are utterly foolish. Because unless you’ve completely and truly abandoned your core mission, acting like you have is confusing at best — and self-destructive at worst. You come across like the musician who hates music: totally repellant to normal people.


Organizations — and the people within them — who don’t embrace their own missions aren’t worth the paper their brand position is written on. They’re either inauthentic to the point of being deceptive or badly confused. Increasingly, donors sniff out that kind of BS and stay away from it. As they should.


I don’t understand the compulsion toward self-denial that afflicts some nonprofits. But I know that if you have it sprouting in your organization, you need to take steps to remove it. Fast.


Comments

6 responses to “When nonprofits deny their mission”

  1. Jeff Brooks, I love you for coming and saying the hard stuff most people shy away from. For goodness sake, what could be more basic than this?
    If you confuse your networks, they’ll run for the hills. It’s worse than saying nothing. Masking tape anyone?

  2. Jeff Brooks, I love you for coming and saying the hard stuff most people shy away from. For goodness sake, what could be more basic than this?
    If you confuse your networks, they’ll run for the hills. It’s worse than saying nothing. Masking tape anyone?

  3. Thanks for this post Jeff. I’ve heard the same thing from more nonprofits that I can believe. Good reminder to say & stay true to mission.

  4. Thanks for this post Jeff. I’ve heard the same thing from more nonprofits that I can believe. Good reminder to say & stay true to mission.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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