Starting a nonprofit organization can be one of the most exciting, interesting projects you could ever pursue. When you’re passionate about a cause, and you need to generate significant capital to make your idea work, it’s often easier to form a nonprofit. People love to contribute their hard-earned money to causes they believe in, and it’s common for nonprofits to get thousands of dollars from single donors.
There’s only one potential problem: there will be heat. It doesn’t matter if your organization aims to save the seals, rescue feral kittens, or provide free meals to kids in school. You will be bashed, trashed, and relentlessly trolled online. It’s not necessarily a reflection on you or your cause, it’s just something that happens to every nonprofit.
A controversial cause will turn up the heat
If you start a controversial nonprofit, you can expect the heat to get intense. Nobody knows this more than the National Police Association – a nonprofit that works hard to eliminate the anti-police rhetoric that damages communities. Not only does the organization seek to reduce and eliminate a sentiment that has been deeply ingrained into American society, but it’s not an easy job considering police officers are constantly being reported in the news for misconduct.
The National Police Association (NPA) faces backlash every day for the work they do, but on the other side, they also make a huge difference for citizens, communities, and law enforcement. They don’t allow the “haters” to win. They continue to do their work and stay focused on the goal. They continue writing their articles, running their podcast, providing law enforcement with grants, and helping with legal matters. They understand that people who don’t support them are just short-sighted, and are actually the reason they work so hard. Their job isn’t to change the world overnight. They do it one person, one family, and one community at a time.
This is a huge lesson you can take with you into your nonprofit. You can’t let opposition stop you from pursuing your goals. That opposition will be there no matter what you’re doing, even if it’s not controversial. People love to hate nonprofit organizations, mostly because it’s hard to know where the money is really going. When the news media gets involved, they often paint the organizations as swindlers, which doesn’t help. And since nonprofit organizations pay their employees and CEOs, they come under intense scrutiny regarding those salaries, as if the creator of a nonprofit isn’t allowed to earn a decent living through their work.
Many people have the wrong mindset about charity
In this nonprofit blog, the writer describes dealing with trolls on Facebook who wrongly assumed they built a nonprofit to get rich without doing any work. The author embedded a brilliant TED Talk by Dan Pallotta titled The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong, and it’s worth watching. In the video, he comments on the fact that people can make $50 million selling violent video games to kids, and that will earn them a spot on the cover of Wired Magazine, but if you earn half a million dollars trying to cure kids with malaria, you’re considered a parasite.
This doesn’t make sense, but it’s how people think. If something helps people, you’re not supposed to earn a profit. And it’s just not true.
Be prepared for people to believe you should be living in poverty while you run your nonprofit. Be ready to take the heat for this if you pay yourself a decent salary, and you may even want to speak with someone experienced to get their advice on how to handle things so you don’t make the wrong move. Even though people who oppose you in this way are likely in the wrong, how you respond can make or break your reputation.
Don’t pay attention to those who oppose you
If you’re going to launch a nonprofit organization, don’t pay any attention to those who oppose you. Stay focused on your project, keep your goals in the forefront of your mind, and keep going. If the National Police Association can continue fighting to eliminate a highly charged political sentiment despite the opposition, you can make a difference using your nonprofit, no matter what heat comes your way.