Off my rocker and dreaming

The other day, someone asked me if I was worried I would become known as “That crazy lady who won’t stop talking about renaming the nonprofit sector“.

I told him no.

Here’s why: Because I am 100% comfortable being thought of as a little off my rocker if it means we find a way to talk about our work that gets away from a term that defines it by what it is not, instead of what it IS. Because it is awesome and important and ground-breaking and world-changing.

And it has nothing at all to do with sector. (Which, as Joanne Fritz pointed out in the comments on this post, sounds militaristic and silo’d.)

I dream of a day when the do-gooders of the world don’t feel obligated to have their sector define their impact. It doesn’t matter if you work for a 501c3, a venture fund, or a global software giant. The tax status of where you work is irrelevant. The impact of the work you do is absolutely relevant.

I dream of a day when we define ourselves not by sector, but by cause, purpose, vision, mission, and community.

Sectors are handy from a regulation perspective. But if we allow them to create artificial boundaries that define our work, we miss opportunities to create connections inspired by shared purpose vs shared tax status.

Will it be easy to change how we talk about our work? No. Change is hard. It takes time and tenacity. And some will say, “It ain’t really broken, so why fix it?”

My dream is not everyone’s dream. But that’s the nature of dreams–they are yours and you can choose to share them or not.

I am choosing to share this dream because I believe words matter. I believe they influence our impact. I believe words are one piece of the elusive puzzle that is a better world.

So I’m fine being the crazy lady who dreams about words, the demise of sector dominance, and the advent of a way to describe our work that speaks to what it is. I’m totally cool with that. Because our work is making the world a better place. And that matters.



The Inspiration Sector

It has always irked me that our sector is defined by what it is not, i.e. the ‘non’ profit sector. Even more irkesome is when you go back to the roots of the word profit, which Dan Pallotta does in his book Uncharitable, and realize ‘profit’ means ‘progress’. So we’re the non-progress sector. Hmmm.

Last time I checked, we were very much about progress. Progress on education, poverty eradication, sustainability, public health, the arts. You name it, we’re pretty much in it to make progress that will lead to a healthier planet with happier people living on it. It’s pretty audacious to think we can achieve this type of  progress given how challenging the issues are that we’re tackling. Like President Obama, we have the audacity of hope.

I think this type of audacity is inspiring.

Many alternatives to ‘non profit’ have been floated–third sector, social change sector, social sector. [And as Chanelle Carver pointed out in the comments below, there’s a logical extention of Hildy Gottlieb‘s concept of Community Benefit Organizations to Community Benefit Sector. Thanks Chanelle for making this connection!)

I’d like to add an alternative to the list: the Inspiration Sector. (And, if someone else has already floated this, then I’d like to second the submission!)

I realize it’d take time for us to adjust to an entirely new name and that there are pragmatic implications (think of all that web copy we’d need to update!), but I, for one, would love to wake up every day and say, “I’m off to work in the Inspiration Sector!”

Want work in the Inspiration Sector with me?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?