I’m about to get on my high horse.
Being somewhat new to the nonprofit world, something that has stood out to me is the seriousness with which people are talking about the idea of a nonprofit organization having a double bottom line.
This, to put it mildly, is refreshing.
If you had asked me six months ago if nonprofits (and here I’m speaking primarily of the “classic nonprofits,” direct service providers, as described by
Thomas A. McLaughlin in his
a mouthful, huh?)
had a double bottom line consisting of their fiscal responsibilities and their duties to their mission I would have said,
“Yes, I suppose, but shouldn’t we be whispering?”
The duty that an organization has to see its stated mission fulfilled often seems to me to be the nonprofits’ dirty little secret.
I mean, it’s like, “Of course we want to see A, B, and C come to fruition, but, my good man, we have to remain solvent.”
Solvency and financial efficacy seem to have the primacy, but the truth is, nonprofits are often involved in the act of what some would describe as ‘throwing money away.’ Or at least, spending money as some sort of abstract act to be true to principles that are incredibly hard to quantify. For example:
- holding that free access to information is important
- or that people with terminal illnesses should get a chance at wish fulfillment
- or even that the destitute and hopeless should receive the same high quality of care as those who can afford to pay for it themselves.
By making the mission part of the ‘double bottom line’ and asserting that finance and mission fulfillment
(the mission which so often seems to arise from a barely rational
enamourment with recondite ideas of community ethics)
are, at the very least, equally important, the dirty little secret becomes a concrete institution that everyone is talking about and realizing that,
a wildly helpful organization that can’t keep the lights on is failing,
an organization so financially insulated from those it is trying to help
that it has lost most of its effectiveness and relevancy
is a failure.