Why "Nonprofits" Should be Banned

Nonprofit is a dirty word. It’s dirty because it has come to mean something it shouldn’t mean. It has taken on a culture and a way of being that has insinuated itself into our subconscious.

And it’s ruining everything.

Stay with me for a sec.

I spend a lot of time talking with other consultants, connecting with grantwriters, management consultants, and others who work with legitimate, real, live businesses. And you know what they ask me?

“How can you make a living helping nonprofits?”

“Oh, but nonprofits can’t afford [fill in the blank – with anything, really]!”

“I hope some people can afford to take your course. People who work for nonprofits, you know, they don’t get paid too well.”

“I do a [crappier version of] this for free for nonprofits, they just need so much help.”


In case you are not already outraged and freaking out about this (as I am, constantly), here’s why you should be.

Nonprofits are not less competent, less important, less capable, miniature and adorable versions of REAL businesses. Nonprofits ARE BUSINESSES. The people who work in nonprofits are JUST AS SMART and brilliant and wonderful as people who make a gazillion dollars in business.

And just like any business that has any hope for success or impact, whatever that impact may be, they MUST invest in themselves and their staff and their programs and their organizations just as any smart and savvy business person would.

Here’s the deal. Nonprofit is a stupid word. It’s stupid because it’s not true. It’s a lying, stupid, nasty word that we should scrub from our vocabulary.

Nonprofits turn a HUGE profit. Sometimes, this profit is even monetary! WHAT?! How can that be? Nonprofit means we don’t make any money and we all get paid $20,000 a year, even the boss, and we all just work so hard and do so much and it’s good to live this way, isn’t it? We’re MARTYRS!

No, no, no, no, no. NO!

Nonprofits have a product. This product is SOCIAL GOOD – whether that’s some improvement or transformation in the lives of certain people you serve, whether that good is reflected in the condition of entire communities, places, rivers, streams, lakes, dogs, cats, WHATEVER. Your product, what you peddle, is SOCIAL GOOD.

Now. Social good is not free!

Social good is not something you just do out of the kindness of your heart! I know you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t have believed me either, 10 years ago before I figured out what was really going on. But now I get it!

Nonprofits make real, tangible, measurable, quantifiable returns to the world, to the community, and to the people they serve. They profit GREATLY in social terms. Sometimes, the ones that are doing it right actually turn an honest to goodness monetary profit that is reinvested in their programs and organizations so they can do MORE good.

When we underinvest in ourselves – our people, our staff, our volunteers, our own hearts and minds for crying out loud – WE ARE SCREWING OVER THE PEOPLE WE MOST WANT TO SERVE!

We are withholding from them the full and complete value and impact of our missions and our abilities.

We are holding ourselves back, and hurting the people we care about the most in the process.

We live in this ugly, scarcity mindset that keeps us shoving table scraps in our faces and calling it a banquet.

When we live in a scarcity place, there’s never enough! We have to make do! We have to “DO MORE WITH LESS!” (If I see another blog post about “how to do more with less” from some smarty pants academic person writing to the nonprofit community I will puke. I’m not kidding. Bring me a bucket, stat).

Scarcity means we have to have shabby stuff, cast offs. Our offices look like 1982. If our offices don’t, our office supplies certainly do. Your chair is ruining your back and you have to stack your computer monitor on a pile of old phone books (which you have because some “generous” business didn’t need theirs anymore because they have a decent internet connection and they don’t even USE phone books anymore) so you can stand at your desk and try not to find yourself in the hospital getting your vertebrae fused at the ripe old age of 31? Good! You’re making do with less! You’re such a trooper for your good cause! Way to pitch in and make do!

When we live with scarcity – we can’t have overhead of more than 10%! 15% if we’re being super extravagant!

And living this way – in this scarcity place - we are selling ourselves, our missions, and our people short of what they deserve. Of what they can BE! What they NEED!

And you know what else? Scarcity is a freaking lie too.

Scarcity is fear made material.

Scarcity is the belief that you and your mission are not important enough for people to see the value and invest in that value.

You are afraid to ask for this investment because you are afraid you’re not good enough.

It’s true, isn’t it?

I’m sorry to be so blunt.

(No I’m not. You need to hear this).

Guess what? You actually ARE good enough.

Your mission is worthy!

Your personal development is worthy!

Your professional advancement is worthy!


You have value, your work has value, your mission has value, and it’s time you got that through your skull and started living that way.

This value is expressed through your results, through your contribution to the world – and it is remunerated by your income and benefits. This can be at whatever level you want – it’s just a decision you must make, consider the consequences of this decision, the tradeoffs you’ll need to make to get more or less money or more or less time or more or less job satisfaction, etc, etc, ad infinitum….

The thing is, there is ENOUGH in the world to compensate you for your value. By “you” I literally mean YOU, and I also mean “your organization.”

There is, in fact, abundance. For you. For your cause. For your people. For your mission.

Your nonprofit business has more resources and more capacity than you think.

Your nonprofit business has more potential to do more good than you think.

Your nonprofit business is more sustainable than you think.

So start thinking about THAT.

Start thinking about your abundant, new reality.

The reality where you CAN make the difference you were born to make. The abundant reality where there IS enough to go around, where nonprofits CAN and DO invest in themselves, and the funders applaud it.

The abundant reality where you are no longer a martyr, but instead, a hero, and a healthy one at that.

Don’t get so caught up in being a poor, simple minded, cute little “nonprofit.”

Be “For Purpose.”

And claim your doggone value. It’s yours. You OWN it. If you leave it on the table, unclaimed and unnoticed, you are robbing yourself and other people of the opportunity to celebrate the goodness you create!

You keep yourself and others from truly, from the depths of their souls, contributing to your social good – to buy into this amazing social change you are creating – when you sell yourself, your staff, your organization and your beneficiaries short like this.

Stop it.

Just. Stop. Seriously.

Sign the petition to BAN NONPROFITS. Let’s BUILD FORPURPOSE. Let’s live For Purpose! Let’s invest in For Purpose.

Leave behind scarcity, embrace abundance. Change your thinking and your mindset, and you will change the world – even more than you already have, and do.

You know it’s true, don’t you?

Because –

Nonprofits are businesses, too. RUN YOURS LIKE A BOSS!


All my raging love –


P.S. Just a few more days to get the REALLY EARLY BIRD rate of $200 off the Get Strategic NOW! Program. You’ll learn everything you need to know to create and rock killer strategic plans for your nonprofit, programs, and mission centered business lines. Get on board! 

Sarai JohnsonComment