Wednesday, February 06, 2008


As my last post indicated, I am taking a class on non-profit management. I thought it might be helpful/interesting to find what all my readers (ha ha) think in general about non-profits. So, what are the pros and cons of non-profit organizations? How do they inform our ecclesiology? How does our ecclesiology inform them? Are there underlying assumptions about participation in the state that is problemactic for the Church? Can non-profits become that which transcends state participation, thus becoming a witness to the state by subverting it's "power?" These are just some thoughts. Feel free to post another good question if you don't have any answers. I love me some good questions!


Matthew said...

NPOs and NGOs have their upsides and downsides. They can often get involved in precarious situations that would be off-limits for government to get involved with (this is the reason why much NPO and NGO funding comes from government sources. Doctors Without Borders gets about 50% of its funding from governments so that they can do work that would otherwise harm relations between governments). Examples would be assisting in local and indigenous development, making issues public and focusing media attention, designing treaties (human rights, land mines, etc), monitoring governments closely for abuses of power, they're able to mediate disputes where it wouldn't be kosher for a government to do so. So those are good things.

As for bad things, NPOs can create a lot of competition for the scarce resource that is donation money, and in doing so they have to "pitch their product" and make people focus on their issue (which may or may not be a good or the best thing to be focusing money and attention on). Another thing is that, whereas a government can collect money whether you like it or not, people get tired of being asked for money all the time from NPOs and stop giving.

A lot of NPOs have no means of self-regulation, oversight or accountability, which can lead to some bad decisions, people getting ripped off, bad labor conditions, etc.

NPOs can also create a cult of leadership, the perfect example of this being Bill Gates with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which can have disastrous effects, especially if the members of an NPO don't like the way the leader is doing things.

NPOs have also been known to promote Western morality and lifestyles (i.e. women's issues) inappropriately, making the people they're trying to help all pissed off.

90% of all NPOs and NGOs were created in the 1990s, and this makes sense when put in the context of the state's overall loss of power to transnational and multinational corporations. This led to cuts in government social spending, because governments do little more these days than make sure that there are favorable market and trade conditions for corporations to make shitloads of money. So this lack of social spending left gaps that NPOs and NGOs have attempted to fill.

While NPOs and NGOs filling these gaps (as best they can) is a good thing, I certainly would rather have my tax money spent on social issues than have to rely on relatively small amounts of donation money (that people are tired of giving). So I think putting our energy behind getting government to get their act together would be a better strategy than, say, promoting NPOs and NGOs as the answer to what ails us.

NPOs are just too apolitical for my tastes.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Danica wants me to make pizza now, but I have a question? What's the point of subversion?

Shellie said...

Hey Scott, I just commented on my own blog mentioning you so here's a link. Currently last comment on page.