When it’s okay not to be nice

Many years ago, I had a client, many of whose staff were members of a Roman Catholic religious order. They were impressive people. But one thing about them really caught my attention: among the vows they’d taken (which included vows of chastity and of poverty), they had taken vows of charity. One stricture of this vow was that they didn’t criticize others.

I’ve thought a lot about that. What a challenging, life-transforming thing, to make a holy vow not to criticize others. Imagine the kind of person you could become.

Well, there’s more than one side to everything. Turns out among those they couldn’t criticize were their leaders. This allowed bad behavior to go unaddressed, and a scandal festered in the organization for years, leading to predictably bad ends for everyone. The Pope has since rescinded their vow of charity, as it clearly did more harm than good.

Charity is a good thing. But so is criticism.

All this to say, I won’t be taking a vow of charity any time soon. And neither, thank goodness, will The Agitator, as announced at No More Mr Nice Guy:

Increasingly the world is counting on NGOs to do their thing in a timely and competent fashion. And increasingly this simply isn’t happening. Too many nonprofits have grown bureaucratic, defensive, risk adverse and lazy. We plan to get specific and put the spotlight on the idiocy of incompetence, timidity, and sloth.

It’s easier to aim a withering critique and something than it is to fix it. And in the nicey-nice world of nonprofits, sharp criticism is outside the norm. I know that, because I get the complaints when I go after something like a stupid nonprofit ad. And most complaints are from people not targeted by the criticism.

I’m with Tom and Roger. Fundraising is too important to sweep badness under the rug. There are common destructive practices that need to be scorned and/or laughed out of existence, and criticism is the first step in doing that. I don’t plan on being either more or less of a nice guy than I was before.


Comments

4 responses to “When it’s okay not to be nice”

  1. Thanks for the article. In my consulting work, the need for a constructive yet critical approach is essential to getting anything done. During my time in DC, my boss used to remind me that, “…if they like you too much, you are probably not doing your job to the best of your ability.”

  2. Thanks for the article. In my consulting work, the need for a constructive yet critical approach is essential to getting anything done. During my time in DC, my boss used to remind me that, “…if they like you too much, you are probably not doing your job to the best of your ability.”

  3. Sally Castle Avatar
    Sally Castle

    http://www.admittingfailure.com – great website that helps us all to learn from our mistakes, in all areas of nfp work.

  4. Sally Castle Avatar
    Sally Castle

    http://www.admittingfailure.com – great website that helps us all to learn from our mistakes, in all areas of nfp work.

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog