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No More Nonprofits?

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Is the not-for-profit organizational model viable for creating sustainable impacts in under-resourced communities?

This is a question that I have often asked myself as the founder of a nonprofit operating in this space. Having spent 17 years in this sector, and successfully launched and operated a small nonprofit that primarily serves urban youth and youth workers, I’m concerned that the organizational structure only enables dependency that we often strive to minimize. Models that are dependent on the benevolence of donors in order for the organization to fulfill its mission are usually not replicable. Models that are dependent on your network lean towards focusing on the donor vs. the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.  Nonprofit structures, at their very core, are not designed to generate profits, but rather exist to satisfy a social need. While many of these organizations have noble causes, those who broker the relationships with the donors often have the relational capital to secure the financial resources for those they serve. However, the individuals and communities that are served are still dependent on a person or an entity for their survival. Models that encourage dependency from its constituents don’t seem to transfer power—or their influential relationships—all that easily.

How then can we begin to leverage relationships to directly assist those beneficiaries?

By placing the focus on the person, rather than the organization. Long-term models of resource dependency have the potential to reduce a person’s creative capacity, which can instill a complacent behavior. Entrepreneurs, when starting their own business, often have a sense of pride and accomplishment that instills dignity and value. The power in taking an entrepreneurial risk is the power of choice. In order for this to happen, however, accessible and applicable tools are needed. Not the grandiose speaker imaging false models of “success,” but solutions-based approaches in which a person can practically utilize simple tools, create a strategy, and maximize resources within their reach to develop and actualize their passionate pursuits.

This, friends, is StartingUp Now…welcome to your journey.

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