You Can’t Play In My Sandbox, I Won’t Let You!
Not-for-Proﬁt Organizations That Refuse to Mention or Work With Other Not-for-Proﬁt Organizations and Potentially Useful Individuals
Stanley M. Hoffman, PhD
June 15, 2021
Those of us who deal with not-for-proﬁt organizations on a regular basis often face a predisposition on the part of many of them to eschew any mention of such organizations or projects by individuals who are not directly under their control. One can fathom why such policies are in place but, when viewed through an objective lens, they are childish and even self-defeating. The reason they are so is obvious: they preclude “synergy.” Merriam-Webster deﬁnes synergy as “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts).” When organizations choose to view their otherwise laudable missions through a myopic lens the result will invariably be tunnel vision.
The writer is intentionally avoiding mention of speciﬁc organizations as he still supports their goals and does not seek to shame any of them publicly. Rather, he is endeavoring to start a larger discussion that goes viral apart from it to spark positive and much needed change.
We are living in unprecedented times. Such times require new, out-of-the-box thinking. Excluding other organizations and talented otherwise unafﬁliated individuals from discussions is old, inside-the-box thinking. #fact
Say for example that one shares news on the listserv of one such organization which documents a successful campaign by another organization whose goals are extremely similar, carefully avoiding all mention of fundraising-related language, and in response one still receives a reply reading, “[name of organization] is not meant to be used for solicitations/donations for different groups. In the future please do not post such items on the [name of organization’s listserv].” This is an irrational response as no such language appears in it, and yet such replies are commonplace. This makes no sense. What would make sense is for each organization to share news of each other’s successes, thus increasingly the visibility of both groups. Rather than operating in a vacuum each organization should consider themselves part of a virtual consortium, if not create a real one.
The writer is aware of one such organization in the choral music community. Rather than simply competing against one another for audience members and donations, member organizations also pool their resources by way of a consortium. That is an intelligent, up-to-date solution for a city with many choirs who otherwise compete with one another.
Another example would be that of a talented professional documentary ﬁlm producer approaching numerous organizations to partner with them, or to mutually fundraise with them, or simply to help get a fundraising word out about a couple of historically signiﬁcant documentaries whose subject matter is very much in keeping with the mission of each organization. All the footage is already shot; each project only requires editing and distribution to bring them into the world. Said ﬁlm producer has been shown “shown the door” all but two times, resulting in quite insufﬁcient donations. The writer is a consultant for these documentaries and has seen footage from them. That they are receiving such treatment at the hands of organizations that stand to beneﬁt a great deal from their existence by way of educational outreach is a shame, to put it mildly. Rather, they should be welcoming this ﬁlm producer with open arms and doing all that they can to help bring these projects to completion.
The world has become too small and dangerous in the digital age for such antiquated, close-minded policies to continue at the affected not-for-proﬁt organizations. Nothing legal stands in their way. The only thing that does is 20th-century thinking. While the organizations are free to continue such policies, if they choose to do so, then they will be doing so at their own peril.