Culture shift: Why does working at non profits suck so much?

You are doing something professionally that is benefitting society with a group of people who also believe in what you are doing.

So why does working at many non profits suck so much?

Over the course of 15 years consulting, I’ve seen non profit cultures that I’d describe as:

  • Apocalypse Now: The one where everyone is at war but no  one knows who the enemy is.
  • The Hunger Games: The one where VP’s are put into a ring and the last one to survive gets to call the shots.
  • Jerry Maguire: The one where the guy in charge yells “Show me the money!”
  • The Breakfast Club: The one where a group of mismatched junior staff have no goals and rebel against the authoritarian ED.
  • The Tree of life: The one where no one knows what the fuck is going on.
  • Any movie by Guy Ritchie: The one where the plot shifts too fast and the cuts give you whiplash.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: The one where nothing really happens, but everyone thinks that’s ok because it looks cool.

I crowdsourced other ideas via Facebook. Here are some  ideas you shared:

  • Get Out: The one where a black man is thrust into a white nightmare.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: All ill-prepared, but well intentioned assemblage of disparate souls seeks an unobtainable goal by fighting unknown and ludicrous obstacles.
  • Pulp Fiction: Assorted random people search for undescribed and unconnected goals, occasionally crossing paths but never really recognizing their connection.
  • Jaws: Where a group of core staff are aware of the monster lurking in the depths (budget cuts), and they need a bigger boat.
  • Indiana Jones and the Arc of the Covenant: Where the movie would have the same ending without the protagonist.

Soon, Mark and I will be releasing a study that examines non profit culture and its relationship to fundraising. Stay tuned for some substantive ways you can help shift your culture.