Nonprofits Can Be Ruthlessly Competitive

Nonprofits can be ruthlessly competitive and wary of one another. One reason is that nonprofits are constantly fundraising, and all the organizations in a given space tend to target the same donors or same kind of donors. In theory, this should create a market check on organizations and winnow out the ones who are not using their resources effectively. It should force them to focus on their strengths instead of diluting their resources. In practice, the opposite occurs. Organizations will sometimes pick projects on the basis of what they think offers the most compelling fundraising story, rather than ones that reflect their true capabilities or the most important needs. They may not be forthcoming about their challenges because “competitors” may exploit that information to gain an edge with donors. They don’t like to admit weaknesses (no one does!), therefore it’s hard for them to seek partners to complement their strengths. These are not necessarily personal failings of the nonprofits’ leaders, but these patterns limit the effectiveness of their organizations.
  • Are you in competition with other nonprofits for the same donors?
  • How could you work alongside these organizations rather than competing against them?