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TURNING NONPROFITS UPSIDE-DOWN

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 20, 2021

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– “Who serves who?”

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Most nonprofit organizations with franchises, e.g., “chapters,” are structured in a top-down hierarchy, typically featuring autocratic rule. It is not uncommon to see such groups organized as:

National -> State -> County/District -> Municipal

I have found this in political organizations, fraternal, and professional trade groups, but I’m starting to believe we have it all wrong; it should be bottom-up, not top-down. After all, it is the bottom-level who represents the true constituents. In theory, the higher levels are there to render administrative support, nothing more. Even in Freemasonry, Masonic Lodges existed well before the Grand Lodge system was invented in 1717. The intent was to bring consistency to rituals and standards for administration, but it didn’t exactly end up this way, and Grand Lodges today tend to throw their weight around to bully the Lodges and their members.

Unfortunately, it seems the bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the egos are to manage it. We now live in an era of control freaks. Instead on encouraging personal initiative, such dictators want to micromanage the actions of everyone which I personally find disturbing. Typically, these are people who didn’t accomplish much in their professional lives, which explains why they become Attila the Hun in running nonprofits.

Probably the best way to differentiate between a commercial enterprise and a nonprofit organization is by asking, “Who serves who?” Whether it is a small business or a major corporation, the commercial enterprise is primarily concerned with serving its customers. In general, such companies will go to great lengths to keep their customers happy in order to promote repeat business and improve cash flow. They are also fully aware their customers have choices, if they are not satisfied with their product or service there is always someone else waiting to take the business away from them. It’s called the “free enterprise system.” A nonprofit organization is another beast altogether.

In theory, a nonprofit is supposed to provide a service or product for its constituents. Such people are pooled together primarily due to a common interest of some kind, be it a professional trade group, politics, a homeowners association, a sports club, a fraternal/civic organization, etc. Such organizations are usually legal entities operating under the sanctions of a state government and perhaps a parent organization. Normally, nonprofits are administered by a board of directors which include officers serving for a specific term of duty involving various responsibilities, such as a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Committee Chairman, etc. It is not uncommon for people to covet such titles as it looks impressive on a resume and is often used to climb a social ladder. Whereas the intent for the administration of the nonprofit is to serve its constituents, quite often the reverse is implemented whereby the membership is coerced into serving its officers thereby creating a monarchy where one should not exist. As trivial or petty such organizations may appear, there are certain types of people who become drunk with power.

Ideally, in a nonprofit, the officers should be ego-less and ever reminded that such groups are typically volunteer organizations and, as such, are under no obligation to follow orders. True, such groups will undoubtedly have governing documents defining specific duties and responsibilities; regardless, it is a volunteer organization where people participate as it suits them. The last thing a nonprofit needs is a bully or someone exerting his/her will to disrupt the harmony of the group.

So, what should we do when we find the constituents are serving the officials? Voting is obviously the first alternative that comes to mind, but people can be rather apathetic and behave like sheep, which officials count on to manage the flock. Brainwashing and information management (aka “spin”) are devices commonly used for such control. Term limits is another alternative, unless it is discovered a one party system has been implemented whereby cronies take turns running an operation for someone else behind the scenes.

Perhaps the best approach though is to privatize nonprofit organizations thereby causing administrators to truly work for the people. Such institutions are certainly not new. To illustrate, commercial management companies are proliferating throughout the country to serve homeowner associations (since the officials are too lazy to assume responsibility themselves). Although you have to pay for such service, you can change companies at a moment’s notice. Privatizing nonprofit organizations offers one important advantage; since they are run by commercial enterprises, who understand the need for properly serving their customers, we would at least know “who serves who.”

The point is, maybe it’s time to turn nonprofits upside-down, thereby reminding officials they work for their constituents, not the other way around. The only way to implement such a scenario is to make the nonprofit independent thereby making them free to recognize and associate with those organizations the group wish’s to. To illustrate, this is one reason why GOP clubs are abandoning the “Republican” moniker and labeling themselves as “Conservatives” instead. This is happening because the grassroots people have grown weary of the bullying and incompetence at the county and state levels.

Just remember, “who works for who?” Do the officials serve the constituents or are the constituents expected to serve the officials? If the latter, you likely have an unhealthy situation brewing.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – For a listing of my books, click HERE.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2021 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “TURNING NONPROFITS UPSIDE-DOWN”

  1. brucemley@gmail.com said

     ….Tim, well written piece and this truly is a problem with non profits….certainly any I’ve been involved with or on the boards of. Best, Bruce

    Sent via electrons not paper

    Sent via electrons not paper >

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An A.B. of Tarpon Springs, Florida wrote…

    “Excellent article. You nailed it.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    A J.T. of Dunedin, Florida wrote…

    :You nailed this, 1,000% correct! “

    Like

  4. […] TURNING NONPROFITS UPSIDE-DOWN […]

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  5. […] I wrote about “Turning Nonprofits Upside-Down” where I suggest instead of top-down monarchies, bottom-up grassroots institutions are actually […]

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