In The Non-Profit Sector, Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better

Every year in the U.S. from say, October thru December, various media outlets publish lists of “Top Non-Profits” in an attempt to provide readers with a “giving guide”.

Most of these lists are ranked by a single factor, typically annual budget or fundraising income, which implies that bigger is better.

Ranking organizations by size in no way informs us about the health and efficacy of an institution. Furthermore, it omits smaller Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) that may be more successful than their big budget counterparts.

I have held fundraising positions at large universities, global non-profit organizations and health care systems. And while I understand their value and appreciate the accomplishments of these big institutions, I am keenly aware of the challenges inherent in gifting to large NPOs.

Challenges include lack of transparency, staff turnover, competing priorities, lack of shared vision and creativity, slow and politically motivated decision-making, waste, difficulty developing partnerships and focus on policy and process…all of which could potentially cause problems fulfilling donor intent.

I’m not arguing against gifting to large organizations. However, there are complex issues that should be fully understood before making a significant charitable investment in one.

My next series of posts will highlight key areas of research that inform giving decisions and increase confidence in philanthropy.