Six Reasons Why Non-Profits Fail-An Introduction


I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time.

Why is it that a good cause starts good and then, over time, goes bad?  Why do some really good organizations, at their birth, have such wonderful energy, purpose and heart and then morph into mediocrity and death?

The fact is that there are a lot of non-profits alive today that are really dead.  That’s right, dead.  There is no energy, no heart, no vision, no vitality.  Dead.  And buried inside those organizations are many of our good friends and colleagues trying to make the fundraising thing work, but finding they can’t.

How did it get this way?  And what can you do to stop it?

That is the focus of this series on Six Reasons Why Non-Profits Fail.

In the following six posts I will explore how an organization and its leaders slowly move into a dark and foggy place and lose their way.  And this journey into irrelevance, in my opinion, happens when the focus moves from a healthy place that works to something that feels right on the surface but isn’t.  The focus and energy changes in the following six ways:

  1. Program becomes more important than People
  2. Money is valued more than Relationship
  3. Getting Things Done is better than Doing the Right Things
  4. Percentages are valued over Impact
  5. There is a focus on Power & Control vs. Effectiveness & Opportunity
  6. Growth becomes the objective vs. Greatness

Here is what all of this has to do with giving and fundraising and why it is so important to process these organizational migrations:

  • Your good donors have a built-in antenna that picks up the fact that there is a rotting apple in the barrel.  Before it can actually be seen, they are already picking up the smell.  And, as a result, they begin to move away. You have probably experienced this in your major gift journey.  You talk to a donor and something isn’t quite right.  They have a question, a hesitation.  They are wondering about things.  You know the feeling.
  • This is not a hopeless situation.  I don’t think most leaders and managers are proactively trying to run the organization into the ground.  They still have the good heart and intentions they had at the beginning.  But the thing has changed right under their feet and many of them welcome the help back to a better place.
  • You can be an agent for change.  The first step is to simply become aware of what is trending the wrong way.  Then it is a matter of being the needed change right in your own area.  I will tell you how to do this.

Some non-profits do need to die.  But many just need to find their way back to a place of health and effectiveness.  You may be in an organization that has lost its reason for being.  If you are, you really should pack your bags and move on as soon as you can.  But if all you see is a little bit of decay and wrong thinking, then purpose to DO something about it in your area of influence.

It will be worth it.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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2 Responses to Six Reasons Why Non-Profits Fail-An Introduction

  1. Richard – I cannot agree more. I think one of those problems can be overcome, but if there is more than one of these challenges at a nonprofit, the erosion begins. I think many fundraisers might “feel” some of these things; I applaud you for thinking about them and naming them. Looking forward to the posts!

  2. Pingback: Organizational Failure is Tied to Leadership Failure | The Transformational Leadership Strategist

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