Recently, I heard a man on the TV ranting about why people without private sector experience are bad to serve in government offices. “They’ve never balanced a budget, created a job or had to struggle to make payroll!” he said.
And my head exploded. KAPOW.
When you are working in government, or a nonprofit, balancing budgets and struggling to make payroll is often MOST of what you do!
In the nonprofit and public sectors, the pressure to balance a budget – one that has often been cut drastically with no input from you, the person expected to balance that budget – is far greater than the for-profit/business world. And the struggle to make payroll is something I’ve seen far too often in nonprofit organizations, often because a corporation has slashed its own budgets and cut funding to the organization or initiative that had been promised for months, or a government agency suddenly had its budget cut and, therefore, had to cut the budget of nonprofits it was supporting.
And nonprofit organizations are job creators. Funding nonprofits, which are focused on improving or preserving communities for EVERYONE, are not only job creators, but also, the people that make communities places where people actually want to live and work – which helps those that start businesses. Nonprofits:
- help improve education (which creates better workers),
- help preserve and improve environmental health (which helps organic farmers and fishermen have better products)
- help improve children’s health (which allows parents to have the time to work instead of caring for sick children – time, perhaps, even to start businesses)
- help promote bicycle use (which helps create more business for bicycle shops, creates more ways for workers to get to their jobs, contributes to a healthier workforce, and creates more parking spaces for cars)
- build and promote community gardens (which helps those that sell gardening implements and other supplies)
- fund and manager arts organizations (which create jobs for actors, production staff and administration staff, as well as enhancing the community and making it more attractive to employers to locate businesses there)
- build, sustain and grow universities and colleges (which train people in various areas of expertise – and these people become workers, even job creators, themselves)
and on and on.
The amount of misinformation being promoted by so many pundits and even elected officials in the USA regarding the realities of the third sector is startling, disheartening and destructive. I have worked primarily in the nonprofit and government sectors, and in those sectors, I most certainly HAVE had to balance budgets, create jobs and struggle to make payroll. In fact, I have had to be far, far more creative with resources and efficient in the use of time and resources than I have ever had to be in a for-profit setting. By contrast, most people I’ve known who have worked primarily in the corporate sector have little understanding of how to do a lot with a limited amount of resources: they can’t believe most nonprofits don’t have fully staff IT departments or the latest computer technologies, and are stunned that volunteers are, in fact, not free at all.
Nonprofits and government agencies have GOT to do a better job of talking about what they accomplish, what it takes to make those accomplishments possible, and how they make those accomplishments happen. Every nonprofit has an obligation to show their transparency and credibility, and to teach the media and general public about the resources and expertise needed to address critical human and environmental needs. The Internet has made it oh-so-easy to do that!
- Basic Press Outreach for Not-for-Profit and Public Sector Organizations
- Outreach Via the Internet for Mission-Based Organizations
- Evaluating Online Activities: Online Action Should Create & Support Offline Action
- What are good blog topics for mission-based organizations?
- Survival Strategies for Nonprofits , a guide for nonprofits facing critical budget shortfalls.