6 Reasons to Use the Term Community Benefit
by Hildy Gottlieb
|Copyright ReSolve, Inc.2009 ©
we hear a louder and louder drumbeat to stop using what my friend
Mark Riffey calls
the other N word. Nonprofit.
post will not be about that.
all, if were mounting a campaign to move to more positive language,
its pretty self-defeating to have that campaign itself be negative! The
command to STOP using negative language is about as
self-contradictory an oxymoron as one could find!
herewith, 6 reasons to move TOWARDS a positive name for the work we all do -
Community Benefit work.
Community Benefit Says What Our Organizations Are and Why They
Exist Imagine youre going on a blind date. You ask, What
is Joe like? And you are told, Well hes not very tall or
thin. He doesnt like Italian food. Oh - and he doesnt have a
is more going on in this description than merely failing to provide pertinent
information. The real result of this description is to focus you on particular
aspects about Joe. Further, you will notice that none of those aspects is
important to who Joe really is.
Joe an opera singer? A gourmet chef? A rocket scientist? Is he the most
attractive and phenomenal lover the world has ever known? You dont know,
not only because I have failed to tell you, but because the facts I HAVE chosen
to share are irrelevant to being an opera singer or an amazing lover.
your organization a Nonprofit focuses the worlds attention on a
particular inconsequential aspect of your being - the financial means that
allow your work to be accomplished.
your organization a Community Benefit Organization declares to the world your
primary purpose - to provide benefit to the community.
The Meaning of Community Benefit Organization is Straightforward
and Clear Misperceptions often arise from the emphasis the
nonprofit label places on money. And while those of us who live and
breathe Community Benefit work cannot fathom how confusing the term can be to
people who are not similarly immersed, here are just two examples from my own
Story #1: I was on a plane next to a young man who had just
finished his second tour of duty overseas in the military. He asked about the
work I do, at which point he asked a question that had been nagging at him for
years. How do they get anything done? If theyre nonprofit,
doesnt that mean they cant use money? How do they pay for
Story #2: At the end of their fiscal year, a small arts group
was showing a profit. The board believed that was not permissible, because they
were a nonprofit. They voted to donate every penny of those funds
to another charitable organization.
am not alone in these observations. Ellis Carter, an attorney to Community
shares similar stories. "This seems so obvious, but I get
at least one call a year to settle an argument about whether all the
organization's money has to be spent by the end of the year."
your organization a Nonprofit leads people to make all sorts of assumptions
about the financial means by which an organization is permitted to do its work.
Because those assumptions are overwhelmingly incorrect, they can actually cause
if (for example) the arts group thought of itself as a tax exempt
Community Benefit Organization - and the word nonprofit had
never been uttered - it likely never would have occurred to them to give away
The Term Community Benefit Organization Creates a Strong, Powerful
Self-Image The term Nonprofit feeds our insecurities. It
isnt often you hear the term used as an excited exclamation: We are
a Nonprofit! Instead, the term is used (for example) when asking for a
discount. We cant afford much - were a nonprofit. No
surprise there - the name almost screams, We have no money!
term also puts organizations on the defensive, as the name itself is a
comparison to something positive, stating unequivocally, "That thing you think
of as positive - profit - we are NOT that."
a result, in addition to the run like a business mantra, we are now
seeing entire promotional campaigns that declare Nonprofits Are
Businesses Too! This attempt at self-justification saddens me every time
I see it.
Positive words, on the other hand,
make us feel - well - positive!
keynote speeches, when I suggest to the audience that they are NOT
nonprofits - they are Community Benefit Organizations - audience
members sit up straighter in their seats. They gasp. They applaud and
I am providing a 20 minute luncheon keynote or a full-day workshop, the thing
that sticks in their minds as they fill in their evaluations is not the main
subject matter, but an almost unanimous reflection: I love the term
Community Benefit Organization!
to your organization as a Nonprofit makes board and staff feel defensive and
weak. A sense of weakness is almost guaranteed to lead to fear-based,
short-sighted decisions and plans.
to your organization as a Community Benefit Organization generates an almost
palpable sense of strength and power. That sense of strength then pervades
every decision that is made, and every action that is taken.
The Term Community Benefit Organization is Inclusive
Creating visionary change in our communities will take more than just one or
two organizations. It will take linking arms between community organizations,
government departments, elected officials, social entrepreneurs, and businesses
large and small.
the term Community Benefit Organization focuses on a groups intent in the
world, the inclusiveness of the name allows for its use by all those entities -
not just traditional "nonprofits."
business, for example, might rightfully feel uncomfortable telling its
stockholders, We have a nonprofit component to our work. However,
that same project might be received quite differently if instead they said,
We have a Community Benefit component to our work, because strong
communities are a critical component to our long term success.
using the term Nonprofit, we are suggesting that only tax-exempt
organizations do good for the world. That divisiveness precludes our working
together to build strong, resilient, vibrant communities.
using the term Community Benefit Organization, we encourage anyone
and everyone to join in the effort to build strong communities.
The Term Community Benefit Organization Provides Direct Marching
Orders to the Board: Focus on Providing Benefit! When a board believes
it is a Community Benefit Board, the name proclaims the
boards marching orders - to provide the most benefit possible.
at the board table will focus primary accountability on the benefit you have
promised to provide to the community.
the goals of your organizations annual plans will aim at the benefit you
have promised to provide.
that brings me to #6.
Community Benefit is a Promise The brilliant
Zach Braiker of the
international business strategy firm Refine & Focus states, Your
name is your promise. What outcome is the highest priority for you? That should
be your name.
what is the highest priority outcome of this work we are all doing to make our
communities amazing places to live? Is it to vow never to make a profit? Or are
we promising to provide benefit to our communities, now and into the future?
Are we promising to build strong, healthy, resilient, vibrant places to
the end, if that community benefit is what we are promising to provide, then
that is the promise we should proudly proclaim in our name.
are Community Benefit Organizations!
Watch the Video and get Community Benefit mugs for your