Sunday, October 21, 2012

Non-Profit/For-Profit leaders agree to keep US charities only “Two Generations” behind


Leaders at the US Non-Profit/For-Profit Summit have agreed on a formula to keep the nation’s charities only two generations behind small business and medium-sized manufacturers.

The agreement, hammered out after an all-night bargaining session, will see the level of progress at non-profit organizations capped at a fixed rate based on the average of similar-sized for-profit companies. The formula of “two generations” represents a major increase for US charities.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of these talks with the for-profits,” said Maurice Snidely, CEO of the League of Big Honking Charities and chair of the US Non-Profit negotiating team. “Our members have been using a formula of at least three generations behind for the last decade. This new agreement will see some of our members actually be as effective as for-profits were perhaps as little as five years ago on some key issues. That’s major progress.”

The stumbling block in the negotiations was over social media, which was not part of the last set of negotiations in 2002. Many US charities have been actively trying to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which caused friction with for-profit leaders. According to the last agreement, charities weren’t allowed to introduce new technologies until the for-profit world had them mastered. With social media still an unknown force to both the for-profit and non-profit, critics complained that charities could not use social media under the agreement.

“Our position was that non-profits should be restricted from introducing social media or at least prevented from making it even remotely interesting or exciting, but because it wasn’t covered in our last agreement we couldn’t do anything about it,” said Dibble Brewer, CEO of For-Profit America.

Non-profit leaders say the inclusion of social media was a major coup, that ranks with the 1999 decision that saw for-profits agree to charities could use accounting software.

“It was a very hard point to make because small business has had a hard time with social media,” said Snidely. “We finally were able to convince them to let us have it only after we pledged to make half of all of our content out-of-date and out-of-touch with our stakeholders. It’s a great first step towards our eventual goal – to be just one generation behind.”

For-profit leaders say that a one generation behind world will have to wait for better economic times.

“Now’s not the time to start introducing radical ideas like making charities as efficient as small business. Americans are just not ready for that. They still expect their local charities to be backwards and behind the times,” said Brewer.

Immediately after the agreement was signed in Washington, DC, several major US charities began to stop daily posting to Twitter and started using last year’s content on their Facebook pages. In a statement on its website, the US National Cancer Trust said it would be introducing 20% “boring” material to its Facebook page because of the agreement and only allow its most immature junior staff to use Linkedin.