Sunday, January 23, 2005

Too Many Charities?

Last issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy had a great article on the growth of 501(c)(3) charities in the U.S. and posed the question---are there too many? Is the field getting too crowded?

Here's what this translates as to me:
The view from the current nonprofit staff and boards, and funders:
Oh. My. God. Too many nonprofits means that we have more competition for donors, more competition for volunteers and staff, more competition for funders. And, these newbies, what do they know. They just don't do things the traditional way. Let's see if we can restrict them......

From the perspective of a donor, end-user.
Hmmm, lots of choices, sometimes confusing (like trying to figure out what sub-group of yogurt to buy at the grocery store), but it's nice to know if one doesn't work, I can go to another.

From my perspective:
Choice is good, new organizations innovate better than existing ones, markets will rule, competition breeds better services for the end-users, which to me, is what it's all about.

Ultimately, the more organizations, the better. Will some new orgs fail? Sure, and that's OK. Will some existing ones fail? You bet, and it's about time. Is that easy on the staff and board? Nope, and having been downsized myself, I am not unsympathetic here at all.

But the bottom line for all nonprofits should never be the continued employment of the staff or the endless feelgood of the board and volunteers. It should be about putting the best possible mission out the door to the most people. Competition helps that, so bring it on.

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