I recently saw this headline in the Nonprofit Quarterly: “The Nascent Nonprofit Organization – What Happens Before a Nonprofit is Born?”
I went running from the computer, screaming, “Please! No more nonprofits!!”
We have 1.5M nonprofits in the U.S. There is an organization for everything. And I say this as I begrudgingly admit that I was one of those people: I started a nonprofit! And like everyone else, I had the best of intentions. And my – our, since I was not the only founder – organization accomplished really good work and we helped to get people jobs. And yet – there are a ton of other organizations that also help people get jobs. Sure, we did it a bit differently, and we played the role of an intermediary more than a direct-service provider, but there are other intermediaries out there.
Had I been a bit more experienced, I might have questioned whether we were doing the right thing. But I was young, and determined to change (save?) the world. So I jumped in headfirst and really never looked back. It wasn’t until I was on the grantmaking side of things that I realized how many organizations are doing such similar work. (And, again, this is ironic because the organization I helped to found was focused on ending the duplication of efforts of nonprofits, among other things.)
Before starting a nonprofit, why don’t we stop and think about if we’re duplicating efforts? Why don’t we look around to see if there’s another organization that is already doing this work – or similar work with which we could partner and complement? Mostly, I think, we are reluctant to foster the support of those organizations because we had a brainchild and it’s our idea, and we are going to do it just a bit differently, and maybe even better. But, in the end, we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing: we’re all trying to do good. Maybe we just need to learn early on, to perhaps put aside our pride and just concentrate on our common goals. And learn to do things better. Together. And more efficiently.