The MAJOR Disadvantage (& ugliness) of Non-Profits & Churches Misunderstanding Who Their Competition Is

by ShaunKing on January 9, 2012 · 2 comments

(This post has not been edited for errors.  These are my raw, unedited thoughts and one of the most important posts I’ve ever written)

I learned years ago never to draw a conclusion for the world based on a limited experience I had.  The thing is, last week I experienced something personally that I have seen happening to others for years.  Within minutes of launching our KickStarter campaign for Hopemob, haters came out of the woodwork.  I’m not talking about the regular haters that I have pretty much every day of the year, this was a different kind – these were leaders and volunteers from other non-profits that were mad that I was somehow intruding on their space.  They posted comments everywhere, emailed me, even texted me with anger on how I could have the nerve to do something kind of similar to what they are already doing.

Here’s the thing though - I AM NOT YOUR COMPETITOR.  We are not Wendy’s & McDonalds.  We are not Sam’s & Costco.  We are not Marvel & DC Comics.

Not only am I not your competitor, but if you think there’s no more room for innovative ideas at the intersection of social good & social media then you have an enormously exaggerated view of what you are doing and a ridiculously poor perspective of how big our true competitor really is!

I don’t view other non-profits and charities as my competitor.  My competitors are

  • Slave traders
  • Drug Smugglers
  • Arms Dealers
  • Greedy & Unethical Big Businesses
  • Poverty
  • Disease

And the moment a non profit or church decides that another non-profit or church is its competitor, they’ve already failed and empowered those that promote evil.

We must do good STRONGER & BETTER than evil does evil!  When you lead an organization that does good, the evils of the world are your competition – not me, not Charity Water, not Joel Osteen…

For my entire adult life I have worked for a non-profit.  I’ve worked for ones I started, small ones, big ones, secular ones, faith-based ones, and everything in between. What I am about to tell you is the ugly truth and it took me 14 years of non-profit experience to really understand the size & scope of this problem.  This is one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written.

Non-profits (including churches) and organizations focused on doing good too often have a fundamental misunderstanding of who their competition is.  Let me break it down.

1.  In the business world, if you start a hamburger chain, your main competition is more than likely going to be other hamburger chains.  If you start a grocery store, your competition is going to be other grocery stores.  You get the picture.

Unfortunately, I am 100% sure this same logic has mistakenly seeped into the non-profit world when everything created for big businesses just doesn’t transfer into the NGO world.

The consequence is that churches frequently see their competition as other churches.  Organizations that focus on water see other water organizations as their primary competitors. This is TRAGIC! In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.

2. Perhaps the BIGGEST flaw of non profits using other non profits as their main competitor is that their solutions are only as innovative as the most innovative non profits (which is often sorely lacking).  Because I know that my true competition stays awake at night thinking of new ways to promote evil, my competitive edge is never lost.  I stay awake at night wondering how I can out-think, outwit, and outlast (is that from Survivor?) those that want to do the people that I love harm.

Instead – churches and non profits are trying to see how they can be like other churches, non profits are trying to see how they can be like other non profits, and they didn’t know that the best orgs in those fields don’t even think like that.

Know your competition!  I gotta run!  Heading to a meeting to continue building HopeMob behind the scenes.  Please consider joining our campaign!

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