Only in non-profit organizations and only in America

This week I talked with an older executive of a Fortune 500 company who wants a second or encore career. He talked to two non-profit organizations about joining them as a staff person. Both of these are small consumer advocacy groups for particular health problems. He is set financially and so can take the substantial reduction in pay. The non-profits were not interested. The executive has not personally experienced the health issue, nor has anyone in his family. He just wants to get involved, to help. There is no one with close to his level of leadership skills or experience on the board or staff. As usual, he will be snapped up by a college or large non-profit who are successful exactly because of people like him.

One of the frustrations of many high level professionals who want to work with or for non-profit organizations is that their education and experience are seen as secondary to having a particular disability or health issue or being “dedicated” to the particular cause. There is some irrational belief that passion greatly enhances a resume. It does not. Passion and dedication are important, but they are never enough.

I have a passion for college basketball. I love to watch it, I like to play around in the gym. If coach Roy Williams would put me on the team at Carolina, I would be the most dedicated player he had. I would be at the gym at 6:00 am and stay until I was exhausted.  I would tell everyone I know about how great Carolina was, I would carry the bags to the bus, whatever was needed. I am not expecting a call from Roy. Why?

I am six feet tall and cannot jump. I am slow. I can shoot pretty well, but only if no one is guarding me. I have no experience playing at the college level. Can you imagine the press conference if he put me in as starting point guard? “He’s a great guy, loves the game, has a passion for Carolina basketball. He does not have basketball experience, but he has other skills in other areas that might help us in some way.”

Coach Roy would probably be subject to drug testing pretty quickly.

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2 thoughts on “Only in non-profit organizations and only in America

  1. Great post. I have to agree with what you said about non-profits. As a person WITH a disability, I have been surprised by the lack of advertising for open positions in some non-profits. It doesn’t help anyone to “dole out” the responsibilities of someone who left to remaining “dedicated” employees. They only become “over worked” employees. It also seems to foster an “inclusive”, club-like atmosphere. Non-profits should embrace dedicated professionals, not people who happen to have that disability.

    Take hearing loss for example. If you don’t already know someone with hearing loss YOU WILL. The numbers in the U.S. are around 34 million and expected to get higher and the median age of those affected lower. “Consumer boards” are not a great idea either. It’s not that someone with hearing loss should NOT be on a BOT if they are qualified, but hearing loss should not be the qualification. JMHO

  2. I work as a director of a non-profit and feel very frustrated by my Board. The Board is based on yuppy business women who see this as an opportunity to get a pat on the back and free press for their businesses. Each member of the Board gains something from being a part of this non-profit and they are always the ones to receive thanks from the community and not the people actually doing all the work and making the non-profit run.
    The stafff has to pay to attend any function and are not paid for attending. As the Director who runs the place, I receive less then our P/T Social Worker. Yet I too have a degree. I am very frustrated by the lack of respect and recognition my non-profit board shows. Yet, I have been the one to turn this place into a well oiled machine!

    Lilly Bloom

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