Can’t sit on a Board when you’re a Fundraiser? WTF Mate?

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Should you be allowed to sit on another nonprofit’s board when you’re fundraising as a job somewhere else?

Some nonprofit managers don’t think so.

They might want you to sign a conflict of interest agreement, or agree to sign your life away,

Nonprofits are acting more like businesses… in a bad way.

Albino Blacksheep End of the World

If you haven’t seen this video at Albino Blacksheep, you are missing out on some quality laughs in your life.

The pictures in this post will make a lot more sense if you watch it.

Okay, are we back?

I’ve written before about nonprofits acting more and more like businesses.

Take for example the recent trend in nonprofits having at-will employment, just like big corporations. That means that they can fire you, at any time, for no reason at all. They counter that well, of course, you can quit anytime you like as well, and no one will stop you! But no one stopped you before. This is a false equivalency, and it’s also a power grab for them.

Does this policy and this attitude engender trust in their workforce?

Why no. No it does not. Because nonprofit staff are not dumb. They can see the writing on the wall. They can see that there’s turnover every 12-18 months, and that salaries are never raised, and that there’s nowhere to rise to in these nonprofits. So at-will employment is just another way to screw over the workers.

A nonprofit IS its workers. That is what makes the programs happen. The workers cause the mission to be fulfilled. If you’re not treating your workers right, then it’s likely that they are not doing a good job because they no longer respect you. And this means that you don’t really care how well your mission is fulfilled.

Which leads us to ask the next question, “What’s going on, eh?”

Why are nonprofits acting so much more like businesses?

Is it because their leadership and their boards are made up of people who are business leaders?

Indeed, some research says that there is no significant, real difference between nonprofits and for-profits. They are different in name only.

So if nonprofit leaders don’t care about the turnover, want to have a at-will employment clause in the employment contract, want to pay people minimum wage, and basically want to act like businesses, should this next move really be that surprising?


This was brought to my attention by a Canadian fundraiser that I know.

She said, “Can you believe this? A non-compete clause saying that you can’t sit on a board or volunteer to fundraise for other nonprofits while you work at a nonprofit?”

And I said, “NO WAY!” And she said, “No, look, it’s starting to become more and more popular here in Canada.”

Here’s why not being able to fundraise for other nonprofits (while you’re a fundraiser at a nonprofit) is a bad idea.

  1. If you get a CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) certification, you are REQUIRED to sit on a nonprofit board to complete this. Most people getting their CFRE are already working at nonprofits.
  2. If you are getting a masters in nonprofit management, public administration, or nonprofit organizations, you are ALSO usually employed by a nonprofit at the same time, and you are ALSO required to sit on nonprofit boards to complete your degree.
  3. If you tell people at a nonprofit that you own what they do, and you own what’s in their heads, they will rightly ask, “Why am I working here if all my nonprofit wants to do is to control me? This is an abusive relationship yo! I’m outta here!” And that’s no position to put a loyal, motivated, enthusiastic fundraiser in. Do you really want to treat them like a thing that you own? How disrespectful! How wasteful. How de-humanizing.

Do you see why this is a stupid policy?

So what do you do if your nonprofit basically cuts off its own leg, and says to you,

“You can’t sit on someone else’s board, oh, plus, we own whatever you do here, none of the ideas you have inside your head are yours, and if you’re getting a certification or degree to be a better fundraiser, we don’t care.

And if you try to use any of the ideas you had here at another nonprofit in the future, well, we’ll sue your ass!”

You may want to be like some huge meteor and say “well fuck that.”

The minute you say this to your current loyal fundraiser, I can guarantee you that fundraiser is going to start looking for a new job.

So why nuke the entire nonprofit world?

I mean, stop firing the missiles! If you treat your workers like enemies, that is what you will create.

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