MLK via wikimedia commons

Nonprofit Dysfunction and the Beloved Community

Jeremy Gregg Philanthropy 2 Comments

[pullquote cite=”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” type=”right”]Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.[/pullquote]Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As the nation reflected on the legacy of MLK, I was reminded of Dr. King’s belief in “the beloved community.”

That concept — which the King Center articulately differentiates from the idea of the Peaceable Kingdom — should be the ultimate Vision Statement for the nonprofit sector. Whether we are in the business of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, educating children, or creating art … the goal of the nonprofit sector is to build The Beloved Community.

And yet, I believe that we face a systemic dysfunction — a structural challenge in the very financial model of philanthropy — that prevents us from doing so. This morning, I am speaking to The Dallas Contributors Network on this very topic of nonprofit dysfunction.

My theory:

The nonprofit sector struggles from a disconnect between the source of capital (donors) and the use of capital (clients); this creates a scenario in which financial stability depends more on fundraising excellence than on programmatic excellence (i.e. the development of the beloved community). As a result, a nonprofit’s long-term goals become more focused on financial sustainability than on systemic change.

To solve this, I believe that nonprofits need to return to their original purpose: to build The Beloved Community. To do this, we need far more than funding for our missions; we need to build movements that shape culture.

More (much more) to come in the future.


UPDATE: After posting this, I found this TED talk from TEDxAtlanta in which Doug Shipman shares “The Secret to Creating the Beloved Community.”

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