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What’s wrong with being nice at your nonprofit?

Read the first post in this series, “Four Flaws in Nonprofit Thinking,” and watch the video about nice vs. kind.

There are four major flaws in nonprofit thinking, and the first one is being nice.

One nonprofit I was consulting at had a food bank that was run by a guy named Carl (I’ve changed his name to protect his identity). Carl had been in charge of the food bank for ten years. Recently, the USDA had switched over to an electronic system to track and process donations. Carl wasn’t very technologically advanced, and he made it clear that he wasn’t about to learn, either.

Rather than confronting Carl, the nonprofit let him run the food bank like he always had. But, other employees and volunteers now had to tip-toe around Carl to get the reports done, a task that Carl was supposed to do. And though they were nice to Carl, the staff really harbored resentment. Not only that, but this workaround led to inefficiency. Ultimately, fewer people were getting served. Fewer people were getting food because the team was less efficient than it could have been.

They were sacrificing their mission to be nice.

The situation with Carl is a classic example. The nonprofit leadership didn’t want to cause waves, so they let Carl run things how he wanted—to the detriment of their mission. It would have been kinder to Carl, the staff, and the clients whom the agency was serving to move Carl to a more fitting position. I’ve also seen nonprofits struggle  in a similar manner with toxic employees, chronically late volunteers, unengaged board members, etc.

Being nice may be a flaw in nonprofit thinking, but, vibrant organizations do practice kindness. Kindness is when you do what’s best, not just what’s nice. Vibrant nonprofits that are kind have employees who are best-fitted to their positions. They have a harmonic working environment and staff synergy, and overall, their mission is powerfully effective.

Don’t sacrifice your effectiveness to be nice.

Next week, I’ll talk about the second major flaw in nonprofit thinking: being thrifty.

Vibrancy planning is not just for your mission, but for the people in your nonprofit. Contact Brent to see how a vibrancy plan can help your leadership grow.

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