Letters to the Editor

To stop treading water, nonprofits must innovate

Just about every day in my work in the Downtown Ambassador Program, I think about my previous job at a software company and how that world is based on innovation, high risk and high reward. Employees are paid well, get benefits, and perks like games, food, regular outings, etc. Not to mention they hire for personality and culture so that the team can bond and have fun in their work.

What if non-profits started operating like software companies? What if R&D became a part of how we operate? What if the relationships with our consumers was reciprocal instead of one-way? What if we started paying employees fairly for the work they do, instead of just assuming they’ll work for less because they’re social workers and have big hearts?

If our jobs as directors and managers in the non-profit sector is to address and mitigate systemic problems such as poverty, hunger, and homelessness, shouldn’t we stop treating it like a growth industry, and start working together to solve problems? Locally, instead of doing the same things, and funding the same things year after year, we can pilot and develop new programs and then replicate them regionally, statewide, and nationwide. Nonprofit incubators would provide an incentive for non-profit entrepreneurs to innovate so that we can really solve problems.

I’m tired of treading water. If we want to change the end result, we have to change the way we do things.

Rob Richards