What’s wrong with the nonprofit sector in America?

Assume you’re responsible for raising all the money for a nonprofit organization. (Maybe you are!) Then consider the following questions:

  • Are you bringing in all the funds necessary not just to meet your organization’s budget this year, plus modest year-to-year growth, but enough money to grow at a dynamic pace—so the organization can take giant steps toward realizing the visionary goal on which it was founded (curing cancer, ending hunger, eliminating poverty, achieving nationwide free arts education)?
  • Are you and your senior colleagues earning salaries commensurate with those of corporate executives performing comparable work?
  • Are you raising sufficient funds to underwrite an intensive marketing and public relations program to build your brand, raise your organization’s public profile, and keep the organization top of mind among your constituents?
  • Is a significant portion of your budget—5% or 10%—devoted to research and development, enabling you to test new markets and new fundraising approaches without fear of failure?

I suspect your answer to these questions is: No.

My answer is: Why not?

In the remarkable video below, a 19-minute TED Talk, Dan Pallotta explains why you should be able to answer Yes—and what’s keeping you and your colleagues in the nonprofit sector from having the impact your organization would need to bring about lasting, long-term change. Unfortunately, Pallotta has received a great deal of abuse for airing these views. So far as I’m concerned, he should receive the nonprofit sector’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize for spelling out what’s wrong with the nonprofit sector.

This video is longer than you may be used to, but it’s worth viewing from start to finish. Look, listen, and learn:

Mal Warwick is founder and chairman of Mal Warwick | Donordigital and the author of numerous books on fundraising. His most recent, How to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals, Third Edition, will be available this summer.