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Are NonProfits Distrustful of Money?
June 12, 2002

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." —Mahatma Gandhi


Dr. Richard Steckel caused quite a stir with the publication of his book, Filthy Rich and Other Nonprofit Fantasies: Changing the Way Nonprofits Do Business in the 90's (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 1989). Although the book is now more than a decade old, it still challenges our thinking today:

"Traditional nonprofits are distrustful of money. Many disagree with the 'bottom line' thinking of the for-profit world. They fear that if concerned with money, they will lose their social goals. They fear money will pollute their mission. They fear they will lose their nonprofit virginity.

"Symptomatic of that fear is their avoidance of for-profit terms. The word 'profit,' for instance, never appears on a nonprofit's budget. Instead you see words like 'excess over expenses' (Saving money is one area where nothing succeeds like excess.) Local organizations that report to national offices never call themselves 'franchises' even though operationally many are....

"Being afraid of words or money doesn't make sense when you have a difficult mission ahead. You have enough to think about. If you become rich, be useful with your riches. Fact is, the filthy part of our fantasy has nothing to do with money. Rather, it means getting into the trenches a little, getting dirty a little, maybe even getting roughed up a little because you are willing to take a chance and try new approaches...

"Once you believe your mission must be heard through the Roar and the Clutter, you must be aggressive in pursuit of it. Entrepreneurial nonprofits realize that money is money. It's neither clean nor dirty; it's merely a tool to be used. Entrepreneurial nonprofits control it, not the other way around."

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