Focus, People! Focus!
Mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore? Get in line.
These are vexing times. There’s plenty to worry about and a lot of issues that need action. That’s probably why we keep hearing various nonprofit leaders telling us things like: It’s our duty as a sector to speak up about (insert issue here)!
I hate to come out against activism, but it’s precisely not our duty as a sector to speak out on the outrage du jour.
Our duty is to fulfill our missions. And that takes single-minded focus. Taking your eyes off your mission — even when something else is important — is a flat-out betrayal of your donors; it’s like playing a shell game with their support — even if they might agree with you on the issue at hand. (And don’t count on that: Donors are a widely diverse group.)
Failure to focus is exactly the same thing as misusing funds.
Your mission is clearly defined. It’s in writing. It’s a public trust. Here in the U.S., it’s subsidized by the tax code. More important, your mission is a sacred trust with your donors.
If your mission is specifically to end the war, restore civil liberties or save the planet — go for it. If it’s not, you have no business deciding for your donors to shift their support in that direction. Your donors have chosen you because they agree with your mission. Your intelligence and right-thinking about other things are besides the point.
I can sympathize if you have a sense that your mission should be larger. Intelligent people think that way, looking for wider patterns and deeper meanings.
Let’s say you’re a performing-arts organization. Climate change — to name just one issue — could have a huge impact on you. Twenty feet of seawater sloshing through your auditorium certainly would be a problem. In fact, if things reach that point, water damage to your hall would be the least of your worries.