We need an intervention with the 501 non-profit world.
There are good 501 non-profits. There are non-profits that work hard—and do good work.
But no serious social change, or dare I say it, no real populist movement will ever come from the non-profit industrial complex. This is simple math. Everyone cannot work as staff for a non-profit and as such its not a model which the mass of people can exist in for change. People have to be able to fight for change and the environment from working class jobs—these are the true mass movement models. For real mass movement the non-profit model can at best assist—and worse impede—real movements for change in America.
The ones that impede the environmental and larger movements in America I am going to call “someprofits” instead of “non-profits.”. Non-profits are the groups that exist and do help or at least don’t impede mass social change. Then there are the final groups that are organic and organize as volunteers and as bi-products of true movement rumblings–I am going to call these true grassroots movements “less-than-profits.”
For folks who are grass roots organizers that deal with the non-profit community, and many within—we all know the symptoms of someprofits. They are the ones always 5 years late on the true populist grassroots campaigns. Someprofits become so oriented in following the campaigns that are being funded they miss the ones that will be and always come to campaigns late in the game to start a non stop campaign to seize control of what they do not understand.
Viewing someprofits as a disease–how can we treat a nonprofit when it’s making the slide to the dark side? The first part of treatment is to identify the symptoms. Here are symptoms of someprofits.
Someprofits get what my Aikido instructor calls bighead. Someprofits come into campaigns late in the game and then drift towards centralizing control. They call them “steering committess” where they form “coalitions” that always seems to boil down to fewer people making decisions.
Someprofits think that since they are getting paid to organize—that they must be professionals and really good at it. This expert head cripples in that the very nature of conflict is that no two are the same. It also makes them arrogant and gives them a sense of entitlement when they seize, and then drive right deep into the dirt—the campaigns.
Someprofits cannot be trusted at press conferences, rallies or events as they will always steer attention back to themselves rather than the issue at hand. Any issue they get invited to speak at they always seem to steer attention to the work they are doing—not the work the listeners are there to do.
Someprofits must have attention NOT for resources to get campaign work done—but to maintain their infrastructure. It’s literally a bread and butter issue for them to capture attention to themselves and to hijack others work. Forming alliances with someprofits is like drawing in the sand on a windy day—they will stab you in the back the first chance there is profit in it.
Someprofits drift along like a ship without a rudder because they are out of touch with the real campaigns being fought by real people. Their only real rudder is grabbing credit and money—they follow the dollar and the attention that gets the dollar despite all claims to the contrary. They have to make money to keep feeding the staff and overhead.
I have seen someprofits kill other groups grants in acts of sabotage in a way that would make Machiavelli blush. I have seen someprofits steal others work to gain credit for it and get rewarded with huge grants for their efforts. Someprofits are almost an enemy of the people in how they rip off from both sides equally—ripping off the issue and ripping off the people who made it an issue in the first place.
Not all someprofits were started as someprofits—some began as non-profits then slid to the dark side. And occasionally, rarely—a someprofit finds its lost soul and becomes a true non-profit again.
To often when you see a nonprofit make the metamorphsis you don’t know how to intervene. Its like seeing a friend developing personality disorders.
Someprofits are dangerous because they are in the between world. Full profits have their moral and ethical orientation out there for you to see at least—making money. Non-profits exist not to fund themselves—but to provide resources and tools for the betterment of our world. Someprofits have the orientation of for profits with the exterior of a non-profits with none of the focus and drive of the less-than-profits. They will sell out the less than profits, suck up to the for profits—and pretend to be non-profits while stabbing them in the back if any media or grant opportunity happens.
Someprofits with their expert heads and driving need to get attention for their bottom line actually interfere with momentum and actual grassroots groups. They are hijacking stealing thugs who wear sheeps clothing while engaging in behavior that if an individual got caught doing it would be called reprehensible.
If you had a friend that began acting like someprofits you would at least attempt an intervention before cutting them off. How do we intervene? Are there self-help groups or books for someprofits?
You cannot trust someprofits with media sources and stories that are developing, political contacts, grant resources, membership list—if you offer any of these they will snatch them up and you will never see or hear from them again.
I guess if a someprofit was a kid you would try to get them away from their unhealthy someprofit friends and point out that nice nonprofit kid down the block—try to get them in a better crowd. Maybe change their environment—cause even if the intervention works—when they go into the environment that created them they always seem to slide back into bad habits.
If a someprofit was an adult you would confront them with their behavior and offer clear consequences if they do not modify their antisocial behavior.
The cutthroat competitive botchery of the someprofits are giving the real non-profits a bad name and are impeding the less-than-profits from doing the real grassroots mobilization. This is doubly damaging coming out of the destructive Bush administration trying to correct in the window of the Obama administration. The less-than-profits don’t need the someprofits screwing it up as they wander into campaigns as they find attention—grab them and drive them right off a cliff in their ignorance.
The someprofits need to get the hell off the fence and either become real again or take off the mask and declare themselves a profit making enterprise. This in-between state is damaging the potential for real change in America.
There are rumblings of less-than-profits mobilizing to force real change in this country. There are good non-profits that are staying out of the way—and are even helping to facilitate this mobilization. But we as a community need to confront these someprofits with their behavior because how many of them are acting is damaging, inappropriate and just plain bad manners.
CHRIS IRWIN is a member of unitedmountaindefense.org and blogs at http://dirtycoaltva.blogspot.com/. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org