“Nonprofit?” Nonsense.

Tamara Lucas Copeland, President, Washington Grantmakers

Last week, I was invited by Chuck Bean to join a panel at the Nonprofit Roundtable’s annual meeting. The topic: how our region’s nonprofit community is perceived and how best to promote its value.

It was a wonderful opportunity to pose a question that has bothered me for years: Why must we keep defining ourselves in terms of what we are not (i.e. nonprofit)? It’s a misleading term and it marginalizes the work that we do.

Dollars and cents aside, here are the remaining definitions of the word profit: “benefit; gain; advantage; to be of service.” “Nonprofit,” then, would describe something that provides no benefit, no gain, no advantage, and no service. Are we really a “nonprofit community?” Let’s see…

We represent almost 10 percent of the country’s workforce, and about the same percentage of the country’s GNP. Along with the government and the business community, we complete a three-legged stool. (If we disappeared tomorrow, they’d notice.)

We help the needy. We fund innovative solutions. We prod government to better serve its citizens. We help America meet its social and moral obligations.” The nonprofit community? Really?

It seems logical that the Greater Washington region could lead the way in discarding this unfortunate label and improving our collective reputation.

Thankfully, no meetings or extended debate would be required. All we need to do is to stop using the term “nonprofit.” The best replacements will, by necessity, rise to the top. I’m ready for a new name, aren’t you?

My best,

2 thoughts on ““Nonprofit?” Nonsense.”

  1. Partnerships for Change has addressed this issue by branding themselves as a “social-profit” organization.

  2. I like that one. After Tamara wrote this, that’s the one we’ve been using. Anyone know of any other leading contenders, or has “social profit” become the go-to alternative?

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