It’s important that everyone involved in a nonprofit’s mission be accountable. We are working to find the organizations that use their resources in the best possible way. You all are hopefully keeping an eye on our work to test the reasoning in our reviews, and to make sure that we are choosing the best organizations for each cause. And watchdogs like our colleague Mr. Straw Man are always checking to make sure that certain line items in the budget don’t get too out of hand.
What about nonprofits’ employees? From my experience starting a national non-profit and working with a number of others, one difference between the nonprofit sector and for-profit sector that has really struck me (and I can only speak for what I’ve seen) is that nonprofits are much worse at doing internal evaluation of personnel, and most of the time it barely happens at all. What does it matter if Bill is not as good as he could be at fundraising, or if Jane is as good as she could be at managing a project, so long as they have their hearts in the right place? That’s what matters: people who share a common goal to make the world better in their cause, and who are willing to work toward that goal, regardless of whether they are necessarily the best at what they are doing…
Go ahead, ask a non-profit that you are considering donating to:
“Hey, when is the last time that you fired someone? Ok, not recently … well, how about a negative review, gave a salary cut as punishment, or put someone on probation?”
In a for-profit enterprise this sort of thing happens constantly, and most would argue that companies are better off because it leads to better employees and a better company. However, I bet that non profit organizations would be shocked if you asked that sort of question as part of a list along with the laundry list of questions related to program and financial management. But it’s the same thing: spending money wisely includes making sure that your employees are as good as they can be, and that is only accomplished through honest and fair evaluation … sometimes that means firing people.
So make sure you’re asking this question. And executive directors, have the heart to fire anyone who isn’t the best person for the job.