Friday Buzz: Does “Nonprofit” Still Have Value?

A debate over terminology in the nonprofit space picks up as the lines between for-profit companies and charities increasingly blur. Also: Why your association needs a CIO mindset.

Is the term “nonprofit” the best possible descriptor of what charitable organizations do?

That’s a debate that’s been lingering in the nonprofit space, with a June piece in Stanford Social Innovation Review sparking the conversation again. Allison Gauss, a writer for the fundraising platform Classy, argues that the sector has outgrown the term, highlighting how other common terms used for certain topics, like “gay marriage” or “Obamacare,” fail to encapsulate the full scope of a given subject. Gauss argues that it’s much the same for “nonprofit.”

“Although ‘nonprofit’ does signal that an organization has been approved for tax exemption, it fails to convey the expertise, determination, and proactive nature of the sector,” Gauss argues. “An industry that works tirelessly to alleviate suffering, institute social justice, and protect our planet deserves a name that honors its aspirations and achievements, not just a tax classification.”

But Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Jim Schaffer sees things differently. In a recent blog post, Schaffer notes that the debate has been long-running and suggests that while the lines between socially conscious for-profit companies like Classy and tax-exempt organizations are blurring, that still doesn’t mean that “nonprofit” should go away.

“Are we not all social entrepreneurs? Do we not all have a passion for a mission? Nevertheless, the nonprofit has the privilege of receiving tax-exempt gifts and the for-profit does not,” Schaffer writes. “The distinction matters because it denotes an appropriately stewarded use of donor money, and we all are required—or should be required—to live up to that assurance.”

It’s a debate worth having. Which side are you on?

Post of the Day

You may not have a chief information officer (CIO), but it’s still important to treat your information infrastructure like you do, argues DelCor CIO of Technology Management David DeLorenzo.

The reason? To put it simply, not having a CIO-driven mindset is putting association IT at a disadvantage.

“The IT model has changed in the for-profit world—but many associations are still living in the past with on-premise servers and IT ‘leadership’ whose focus is on keeping the network running,” DeLorenzo writes. “Meanwhile, their colleagues in other departments are increasingly using cloud-based technology. Those colleagues need a new type of IT support: in-house technology consultants, not sys admins.”

Check out DeLorenzo’s post for more.

Other Links of Note

It’s all about how you frame it: Operations Manager Christian Britto says that launching a community successfully requires a strategy and mindset that’s built to succeed.

If you’re an Android user, you have good reason to be excited. Google is launching add-ons for the mobile versions of its Docs and Sheets apps.

Here’s an email risk to keep an eye on: Hackers are starting to use domain doppelgängers—or domains that look nearly the same as those you regularly use—to steal data from email users. If you see three I’s in the email address instead of two, something’s wrong.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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