Changing our Nonprofit Culture, One Person at a Time

Last year I came out with a research report, called Shafted.  How did I do my research?

I did some research on JSTOR, I did some online research, I read the YNPN research reports and also read Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta, and Donor Centered Leadership by Penelope Burk. And I did more research outside of that.  I also personally interviewed about 10 people about what they thought the issues of nonprofits were and how we could help fix them. My premise was that people in unions had it better. I wanted to find out the truth. Should fundraising staff be unionizing?

I talked to a union organizer. I talked with a person currently a member of a union. I talked with a person who had formerly been a part of unions.  I talked with a person who had the chance to join a nonprofit union and didn’t. I talked with non-unionized people. What I found out may surprise you.

Shafted had two parts. Part one talked about the problems with our nonprofit fundraising shops right now. Click here to download part one.  Part two talked about some ideas for some solutions. Click here to download part two.


Recently, a reader of the report took the time to write to me. Here’s what she said.

“I have finally taken the time to read the report and I am glad I did!

You raised a lot of big issues from how to keep fundraising professionals (happy), to boards and leadership’s accountability in nonprofit professionals’ turnover, and races/gender issues.

I have been asking myself a lot of the points you’ve raised since I’ve been living in NY and couldn’t always find answers.

I am pleased to see you’ve done a very detailed report and I’m surprised that nobody talks about it as much as we should. As much as I’ve learned a lot from my certificate program, I believe this report should have been mentioned while training and to professionals who’ve been in the field for many years.

Those who see and know that there is a problem, we certainly agree with everything said in the report. However those who most need to be aware of the situation, won’t read it or are not going to look for it as they don’t see anything wrong today. How to reach them? Being fired for trying to have your board on board is unbelievable and that’s why we need them (board, ED, CEO…) to have a real look at this report.

On a side note, I specially like the fact that you talked about diversity within board and leadership positions. It has always been strange to me to see the same group of people holding higher positions as if they were more legitimate because they are wealthier, smarter, know better about the people they serve because of the color of their skin. I don’t want this conversation to be only limited to ethnic issues but as you pointed out, there’s clearly a problem within the nonprofit sector that needs to be seen, heard and addressed if we really want to make a serious change.

Thank you so very much Mazarine for this report.” -Aziza M, Development Professional, New York, NY USA

There are many things wrong with our nonprofit cultures. Read PART ONE of this report to see what they are.

And then read PART TWO to see some proposed solutions.

How do we change our nonprofit cultures?

Consider this. We have no control over what we cannot name.

Step ONE: We must name and claim what is going on. What’s going on? Here’s what my research found.

Step TWO: We must talk with allies about what is going on and what we want to do. What to do? Read part two.

Step THREE: We must bring this up privately, publicly, and not let it go.

Step FOUR: We must change the policies at our organizations. And if our organizations do not want to change, we must find or make better ones.

What do you think? How can we change our nonprofit cultures for the better?

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