Thursday, October 05, 2006

Zombies And The Non-Profit World

If you've ever worked in the non-profit sector, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

It always surprises you when you encounter it. You enter into a social welfare program thinking that you're going to make the world better. Ya know, the important thing is helping others. You expand the program, take in as many ideas as you can, so long as your helping the community. The people you serve are the most important aspect of what you do.

However, that's not the only type of person you meet in the non-profit world. Every once in a while you meet someone who participates in these project to fill some nameless void in their life. They see themselves as the saviors of humanity. The project becomes their sole life and love. Any threat to their control on the project is a threat to themselves.

Alright, so it happens more than 'every once in a while.' The non-profit sector is filled with psychological, self-serving, egotists. While this wouldn't normally be a problem, they have the annoying tendency to suffocate the very programs they love.

Upon closer examination, you realize you really DON'T fit in at the local non-profit.

To me, it seems awfully logical to search for ways to improve your program. Search through scientific journals, people who have experience, new people who have fresh ideas, the community, whatever it takes to help people more efficiently or effectively. Somehow, I cannot imagine that ideas from one individual, or even a small group of individuals, can compare to the ideas gained by a larger group of empowered and passionate people who really want to better their world.

Even such, I'm not willing to sit by as a group of psychologically-impaired people ruin perfectly good programs to make themselves feel better. If you decide to do community action, please remember that we all have limits. Recognize the fact that we work better together than as single units and that more ideas are a good thing. Don't overwork yourself, it only leads to burnout and (again) failed programming. Invest in the people around you and listen to the opinions of those who disagree with you. They usually have good points and, even if you don't concede to their every wish, at least you can put your program in perspective and use their skepticism to improve your project.

Respect is necessary, but don't become so psychologically attached to your program that your personal feelings turn something (namely a program that people rely on) into a political game. The world needs too much work to not keep things in perspective.