On February 1, 2018 I will join the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (NANOE) as it’s first President. Some have asked, “Louis, why NANOE?” and here is my answer:
The time for a reformation of the nonprofit industry is long overdue. The NANOE Reformation has already begun. In this new world, every charitable leader will be honored for his or her service. Staff and administrators will be paid what they deserve rather than being told, “well, we’re a nonprofit, so we can’t pay you what your worth.” Charities will no longer be taken advantage of by large companies and firms offering expensive products and consulting services they don’t need or don’t work. Together, we will explore enterprise models that work in the for-profit world that should also be applied in the nonprofit sector. Board meetings will become inspired small group discussions about growth rather than large gatherings of disinterested people listening to staff reports. Outdated ethical codes will be abandoned and new standards for our industry will be generated from the ground up, rather than being passed down to us from those in ivory towers.
We take our cue from the Protestant Reformation. 500 years ago Martin Luther, walked across the town of Wittenberg, Germany to All Saints’ Church and posted his Ninety-Five Theses on its front door. Luther’s radical declarations caused a series of debates that led to a seismic shift in the landscape of the Western World that impacts us still today.
Pope Leo X was in the middle of a capital campaign to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In an attempt to finance this endeavor, Leo allowed the issuance of Indulgences to anyone who could pay for loved ones to have their time in Purgatory reduced on their way to heaven. Luther challenged this fundraising scheme, the authority of the Church, and the authority of the office of the Pope. As Luther’s message spread, faithful Catholics promulgated his teachings because they too saw aspects of Church doctrine that needed to be reformed.
The Reformation changed everything. Beyond theology, Luther’s work to translate the Bible into German (along with Gutenberg’s printing press) began a movement that put books in the hands of common people. With radical grace as the cornerstone of his world view, Luther spread the message that everyone, not just priests, could study scripture and engage in theological discourse. For the first time in history, everyone had access to the Bible and realized they had direct access to God.
Yet, no good deed goes unpunished. In 1521, Luther was excommunicated (barred from worshiping and serving in the Church) and was forced into hiding under threat of death. His books were burned and he was denounced as a heretic.
Perhaps the most disturbing part about the Church declaring Luther a heretic was that he simply wanted to start a discussion, not a schism. His goal was to have a discourse about what he was experiencing as a professor and parish pastor so that much needed changes could be made. He recognized that there was nothing in the Bible to justify indulgences nor did it make sense for people (especially the poor) to be scared into paying for them. Though it took five centuries, Pope Francis and other Catholic Bishops have recently thanked Luther for his work to reform theology and teach the Christian faith.
One of Luther’s great contributions is what we now call the charitable movement. Colonists to America had a deeply ingrained piety centered on worshiping God and serving the poor. Churches and denominational authorities all over our new nation established hospitals, colleges, food pantries and shelters. Yet, this piety was accompanied by a double-edged sword. Sewn into the DNA of these good works was the attitude that if you were serving the poor and miserable, you should be poor and miserable as well. While economies flourished and funded charities out of its excess, nonprofit leaders were taught to survive month to month in poverty. Though colleges, universities and hospitals broke free of this mindset (because capitalism required people to be educated) the rest of the charitable sector languished. As a result, small and medium nonprofits were left with broken practices that never worked in the first place. These included board training, onerous fundraising requirements, endless committee meetings, worthless strategic planning sessions, restrictions on how compensation is structured and tedious, time wasting reporting requirements.
500 years after Luther’s Reformation, a group of donors, volunteers and charitable leaders coalesced to re-form the norms of the nonprofit industry. The National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE) appointed a Board of Governors to review sector practices and develop a new set of guidelines that actually worked. Chief among their concerns were five key issues:
1. Equipping charitable leaders with enterprise models that achieve significant impact.
2. Replacing outdated ethical codes and failed best practices with values systems that actually work.
3. Implementing new management structures that attract and retain the brightest minds to serve in the nonprofit industry.
4. Prioritizing capacity-building over program service so sustainable impact can be achieved.
5. Ending the sale of failed products by for-profits and consultants to charities who don’t need or can’t afford them.
Feasibility Studies, for instance, are the indulgences of the nonprofit world. They are designed to assess the capacity of a nonprofit to enter a campaign to raise significant funds for project and facility expansion. Nonprofits pay $30,000 or more to learn the potential of their community to support a new funding initiative. Yet, feasibility studies only reveal what is already known: charities need to develop personal relationships with donors. They don’t need to pay a consultant to do this work for them.
The NANOE Reformation proposes an alternative model to Board Member Roles. Rather than organizing a group of volunteers who have no training or expertise in running nonprofits, NANOE suggests a model where a well-paid CEO serves equally among a small group of sector experts who receive honorariums (approximately $3,000 per year) for their service.
This model mirrors the practice of the for-profit industry. Corporations offer significant compensation in order to secure the leadership and visionary ingenuity of the brightest minds. Those sitting on the boards of these corporations are paid for their service and have a responsibility to represent the interests of investors. The measure of a corporate CEO’s performance is simple: are annual profits increasing and being achieved within the norms of sound business practice. NANOE proposes a similar model for nonprofits with a nuanced measure of performance: is the breadth and depth of service to people growing year over year and are revenues sufficient to cover increased impact?
The NANOE Reformation was started in part by Jimmy LaRose, a veteran fundraiser with 27 years of experience building capacity for nonprofits. He’s assisted more than 500 organizations raise hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve their missions. LaRose was the founding president of the Western Maryland Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and was named AFP Outstanding Professional Fundraiser by AFP Central Carolina’s Chapter. He was one of the youngest individuals to ever achieve CFRE designation (Certified Fund Raising Executive) and was named a Subject Matter Expert by CFRE for his work in developing CFRE Exam Questions. His book, RE-IMAGINING PHILANTHROPY, declares that “money is more important than mission AND donors are more important than people, issues or cause.” His life-time of service has resonated with policy institute scholars, social activists, doctoral students, business leaders, think tanks, nonprofit and NGO executives who rely on his team of veterans to grow their charitable enterprise. These qualifications have more than earned him a place at the table to discuss the state of the nonprofit industry.
LaRose, NANOE’s Board of Directors, and Dr. Kathleen Robinson (author of NANOE’s 600 page “New Guidelines for Tomorrow’ Nonprofits”) have attracted criticism from those who hold on to the outdated views of our sector. NANOE has been called a “recipe for disaster”, “iconoclastic”, “unorthodox” and a “cause for concern.” So threatened are some by NANOE that membership associations, consultants and for-profit corporations have violated their own ethical codes in an attempt to end NANOE’s dream to transform the nonprofit world.
In their zeal to denounce both LaRose and NANOE as heretics, the critics have missed a simple point: NANOE only desires to change and save more lives and is willing to challenge accepted norms in order to make this dream come true. In a Luther-like fashion, LaRose and the NANOE Reformation have gone to great lengths to ensure everyone has access to capacity-building excellence, not just those labeled as development professionals or fundraising consultants.
Because we believe there are no secrets when growing charitable enterprises, the NANOE Reformation threatens the powers who make their living largely off of feasibility studies and myths like Board Development. Voices from the nonprofit world have decried NANOE’s approach to a strong CEO and aggressive fundraising tactics as unethical. In the same way the Catholic Church of old sought to get rid of Luther, present day leaders are seeking to excommunicate LaRose and his followers.
Over the last year, I have carefully researched NANOE’s Values, its Board of Directors and have come to know Jimmy LaRose as a personal friend. At times self-aggrandizing and bombastic, LaRose is just as easily self-effacing and humble. He is part Martin Luther and part Howard Stern. When asked about his more radical statements, he responds “Hyperbole brings attention to an issue, but our truths are based on field-tested university led research. Nonprofits that flourish are not led by Boards with a vision but rather by strong CEOs backed by Boards who support the CEOs’ vision. NANOE has simply had the courage to say what everyone already knows. THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES. It’s time for us to transform ourselves in ways that make all our dreams come true.”
NANOE promotes the view that nonprofits should be engaged in heroic missions of scale to transform communities. We are not interested in continuing the pietistic practices of raising money today to pay for yesterday’s bills. Rather, NANOE members believe money chases after ideas backed by sound plans. NANOE believes that hiring strong CEOs and recruiting expert Board members are the keys to eradicating our biggest problems.
Luther never meant to leave the Catholic Church. Rather, he wanted to start a conversation in order to reform what was obviously broken. In much the same spirit, NANOE does not want to overthrow the nonprofit industry. Rather, we wish to change it in ways that ensure we help more people.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take 500 years for the nonprofit establishment to acknowledge the gift that the NANOE Reformation is to the nonprofit world. After all – NANOE is facilitating the changes needed to save more lives – is this really a reason for excommunication?
Louis Fawcett Leads NANOE Reformation: Why This Movement Is Real And is Here to Stay!
Reverend Louis Fawcett, holds a BA from Randolph-Macon College and two Master Degrees from Wake Forest University and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He was privileged to Pastor three Lutheran congregations in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. His service to the charitable sector began with his work at Christian World Foundation where he raised support for orphans in China, Russia and Ethiopia. During the 2008 recession, Louis led a successful campaign to build a children’s home in Ethiopia. Following the 2010 earthquake, Louis transitioned to Haiti Children, a charity serving destitute families and children in that island nation. In 2013, Louis accepted the position of Senior Vice President of Principal Gifts at EdVenture Children’s Museum where he forged collaborations with under-resourced communities throughout South Carolina. He has served Central South Carolina Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) for seven years as both board member and president. He was honored in 2016 as AFP’s Outstanding Fundraising Professional. His journey has prepared him to lead a NANOE Reformation of the charitable sector.