DickersonBakker Blog

Four Flaws in Nonprofit Thinking

I was at a conference in Baltimore a while ago, when I was approached by an executive director of a nonprofit.

“I know we need your help,” he said, “but I don’t know what for.”

“Do you need help in fundraising?” I asked.


“Strategic planning?” I suggested.

“No,” he replied. I went through a few more services that we offer, but he shook his head at all of them. I asked him again what he thought he was looking for.

“I don’t know,” the man said, shifting his weight. “I just sense that we could do better.”

When I visited his organization, I could see many reasons why they weren’t thriving. They were trying to do too much in too little space, and some of the staff simply were not a good fit for what they were doing. As they were showing me around, they would say, “Look at what we’re doing with so little!” And I would think, “Ugh. Look at what they’re doing with so little.” They were “redlining” it and had been for a long time, and it was clear that they were burning out. The executive director was right: they didn’t need help fundraising or strategic planning—they needed a plan to become vibrant.

Over the years I’ve found that there are four main flaws in nonprofit thinking that prevent vibrancy. For an organization to really thrive, they need to embrace a new way of thinking.

The Four Main Flaws in Thinking are:

  1. Being Nice
  2. Being Thrifty
  3. Working Hard
  4. Being Busy

Over the next six weeks, I will address why each of these is a common nonprofit flaw. I will also show a better alternative and the next steps you can take. It all comes down to this fact: It’s not enough to hope for vibrancy—you have to plan for it.

Interested in learning more about vibrancy planning now? Contact Brent, and he can tell you more about what it looks like and how it can help your nonprofit’s specific needs.

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