Very, Highly, Truly, Rather, More Unique

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on January 9th, 2009 in Articles, Thoughts & Commentary

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Purple Cow

It seems like such a platitude to start out the new year with a blog about new year’s resolutions.  So, I’m putting out a suggestion, planting a seed for folks to consider.  And that is this:  get over yourself!  You are only hurting your organization and the client base you profess to want to serve. No exaggeration, but conservatively, 80% of nonprofits we work tell us they are unique.  Their challenges are unique, their situation unique, their issues unique, etc.  “It is hard for us to do ____________ (fill in the blank) because we aren’t like other nonprofits.”   We hear this all the time.  Get over it.  You really aren’t unique. Claiming uniqueness here is really an excuse for the things you aren’t doing at all or aren’t doing well.  Your difficulties in fundraising, in recruiting board members, in evaluating the impact of your programs have nothing to do with being unique.  But thinking so does give you permission to not address the real problem, and overcome the real reasons why you are having difficulty fundraising , such as not having a proper compensation package for your development person—or not having a development person at all—instead of “our mission is unique and hard for people to understand.”  Or having difficulty recruiting good board members because you aren’t being strategic and/or people don’t know why they should serve on your board or what is being asked of them, instead of saying we are different so we can’t do things the way everyone else does.  And the list goes on.  And all this does is prevent an organization from doing what it should be doing to make it the best it can be.   Claiming uniqueness as your status is simply false.  Your issues—staffing, fundraising, sustainability, board development, etc.—are not rare by any stretch of the imagination; they are the same issues facing every other nonprofit.  There is nothing different, exceptional, distinctive here.  Where, however, you should look to claim that difference is in your positioning—a positioning that needs to differentiate, truthfully, your organization from the over 1.4 million nonprofits in the United States, and the even larger number in the world.   So, in the new year, make the switch:  turn “we are unique” from a whining excuse into a badge of distinction.   

The opinions expressed in Nonprofit University Blog are those of writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Salle University or any other institution or individual.

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