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Just For Nonprofits: Us Against Them: When Nonprofits Compete
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Just For Nonprofits: Us Against Them: When Nonprofits Compete - Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Us Against Them: When Nonprofits Compete

Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Us Against Them: When Nonprofits Compete

Nobody likes to think about nonprofit organizations competing against each other, but the competition is there, and stakeholders are well served when they first examine this reality from ideological and practical points of view, then decide how they will respond to it. While it’s unnecessary to remain focused on what other groups are doing, a continuous awareness of others in the same space can contribute to a clearer picture of an organization’s mission and practice. We offer no solutions here; we merely make the effort to delineate some of these realms of competition for clarity’s sake.

On the broadest scale, every nonprofit competes against every other for attention and donations by benefactors. When reliable donors need to tighten their purse strings, where will they reduce their gifts? Will your organization’s strategy be to increase the attention it pays to long-time donors, or will it seek newer pastures? The micro-look can dictate the strategy as you examine who the donors and competition are.

Perhaps the saddest reality, especially in cost-cutting times, is that public funds are as fickle as the politicians who control them, and nonprofit organizations often depend on such funds merely to keep everyone employed. While it might sound like backward thinking to pursue funds to maintain organizations, this maneuvering into the crevices can improve service to beneficiaries when groups with similar missions are forced to differentiate themselves. One criticism the public often has is about a redundancy of charitable services, but a community with five youth-services agencies probably needs them all, and as providers jockey for funding, they look for the people falling through cracks. As your organization reaches out for government funding, will it find new avenues for addressing its mission in order to keep its mission afloat?

Nobody mistakes the Salvation Army’s red shield with anything else, but few agencies can boast that kind of recognizability. Even when organizations have completely different names, because they exist in similar space, clientele and benefactor sometimes have difficulty telling them apart. Anyone who has worked in nonprofits will tell you that this can be maddening. One school is mistsaken for another. One services agency is mistaken for another. One environmental protection service is mistaken for another. We’re all a little tired of all the branding talk, but at its heart is the value and importance of identity, not only from within but from without.

Competition for personnel is a never-ending issue, and it seems sometimes that the more you invest in hanging on to your good people, the harder it is to hang on. Professional development and healthy recruiting often make our best team members appealing to other teams, and sometimes our agencies seem like farm teams for other agencies, and it’s not always about pay.

In the long run, competition is good for the consumer, but is it also good for the beneficiary of nonprofit organizations, or does competition thin their effectiveness the way melting ice dilutes tea? The answer (as it too often does) depends on the situation, and although it seems like an endless, uncontrollable situation, to ignore it is to give it more control. A healthier approach is to look it in the eye, size it up, and do something.

 

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Just For Nonprofits: Us Against Them: When Nonprofits Compete - Executive Leadership Articles

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