NANOE Controversy – Is Charity Broken for Good?

NANOE and their 1,400 members have poignantly asked the question, “Is Charity Broken for Good?” This group of charitable leaders, named National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE), have determined that high-performing nonprofit leaders are entirely frustrated with the dysfunction of nonprofits.

NANOE points to the myriad of charitable legislation, tax laws, industry standards, outdated philosophies, organizational structures, and practices that have STOPPED SECTOR GROWTH on all fronts. In the face of this downturn they also note that governments, philanthropic communities and civil society demands more performance from charities to effectively tackle a host of social, health and environmental issues. In their final analysis NANOE Members determined that industry standards have not changed to meet the needs of the 21st century.


Why the controversy? Needless to say NANOE’s co-founders have taken a lot of heat for defying the nonprofit establishment and calling out charity’s ivory tower elites. Their mission to re-examine how we organize nonprofits, what roles and responsibilities boards and staff have, and what populations really exist for the various kinds services have been met with contempt by industry pundits.

NANOE has proven that charity has fallen far short of impacting the major social and environmental ills it was designed to address. There is more hunger, homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, poverty than ever before. Yet, the majority of charities settle for reaching a few related to a cause, while neglecting the organization they require to ensure their impact makes a significant difference in their community, county, state or nation. (It’s like the English speaker who goes to another country and thinks they will be better understood, if they speak louder, and say the same words over and over again, but slower!)

Here’s what NANOE is discovered. There has been little or no change in charity’s philosophy or approach in over two centuries. Simply put, the structures created in the late 1700s are still present today. (including the notion of a board of directors.) Nonprofit administrators are strapped with outdated roles and responsibilities, archaic approaches to revenue growth and flawed systems that have only failed them. The power and status issues inherent in a contributed dollar model stops the sector from delivering what is truly needed to eradicate (not just treat) social and environmental issues.

What has been NANOE’s response to these issues?

NANOE co-founder, Kathleen Robinson, has defied industry convention by releasing NEW GUIDELINES FOR NONPROFITS to address the ways charity needs to change. Dr. Robinson spent five years hosting hundreds of meetings with charitable practitioners, policy makers, academics and industry leaders producing an 1,100 page treatise that will challenge everything you believe about nonprofit management. Kathleen is fond of sharing, “New Guidelines for Nonprofits is for high-performing leaders who want to free themselves from the restraints imposed by the the charitable establishment while adhering to principles of moral agency, stewardship, freedom of speech, freedom of peaceful assembly, ethical practice, and transparency.”

NANOE members believe that if they don’t change things now the best and brightest will not stay in or join the sector. Charity will continue to limp along, not meeting society’s needs, or ever have a chance to truly eradicate the social and environmental issues we face today or project facing in the future. It’s time to re-think how we have to organize, lead and manage ourselves. It’s time to address whether the nonprofit sector really wants to re-define its role and purpose in society (perhaps even its tax status.) It is in this spirit that NANOE has produced NEW GUIDELINES FOR NONPROFITS for further debate and discussion. NANOE offers them as the BEGINNING of dialog, not the end.

So what is the NANOE Controversy? What’s really going on here? Why all the heat?

Because NANOE has gotten it right!

Ultimately, NANOE members believe that “innovation never fears a challenge” and that the greatest contribution nonprofit practitioners can make to charity is to become the creative enterprise-leaders our sector so desperately needs.



NANOE Controversy – Is Charity Broken for Good was written by author, speaker and fundraiser James P. LaRose, CNE, CDE, CNC. He’s the author of RE-IMAGINING PHILANTHROPY: Charities Need Your Mind More Than Your Money™ written to philanthropists who give nonprofits what they really need…enterprise models that grow capacity and achieve financial sustainability.


2 comments on “NANOE Controversy – Is Charity Broken for Good?”

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