Do Something’s CEO, Nancy Lublin Certainly Did: Dangers of A Rant in Fast Company Magazine

Wow, how I DO LOVE a good rant! We all need to vent once in a while and I think that the non-profit sector is as good a place to take a shot these days as as any. For those who relish a good rant, and I am certainly one of them, (see the rant I posted “You Call Yourself a Social Entrepreneur?” here I say “rant away”, with caution.

On January 13, 2009, Fast Company Magazine published an article by Nancy Lublin, founder of the non-profit  “Do Something”, and President of Dressed For Success, a group that helps women find work. The article “Nonprofits? Not a Recessionary Refuge for Job Seekers”, seems to have touched of a torrent of angry comments from readers because of the harsh tone she used to describe what seemed to be an endless stream of people coming to her looking for advice on how to make move from the greedy for-profit world into the caring non-profit world. Lublin states; “I take these meetings out of the goodness of my unnaturally large heart, which should be considered a handicap.” and Your Harvard MBA won’t make me drool. Twenty percent of my staff graduated from Ivies — and we’re not the smartest people on the team.” While I’m just reporting the news here, ok fine, i’ll give my opinion…I think she might have crossed the line based on the comments she received. The tone did have a somewhat hard feel to it.

I have a great amount of respect for anyone who has enough passion to start an organization to help other people. There are a number of things that non-profits must deal with that the for profit world does not. As Nancy points out, marketing for one is very difficult on a shoestring budget. While we who serve the donor community have demanded more accountability from non-profits in controlling and being responsible for things like administrative expenses and excessive executive compensation, many of us feel that non-profits have their hands tied when it comes to spending money to make money or to ultimately deliver results. We have become focused on the wrong metrics. We focus on expenses and administrative costs, instead of measuring outcomes. In our attempt to make non-profits be more accountable, we have in many respects, tied their hands and made it more difficult to accomplish their mission. I think that Nancy’s article in Fast Company was in many ways, a rant about being frustrated that they are forced to play by a different set of rules. That’s my take anyway. Nancy, I hear ya but it appears that a lot of people either took what you were saying the wrong way (as sometimes happens), or they just didn’t like hearing it in that tone of voice.

So where do I come off having an opinion on this?  I help successful folks figure out how to make the financial leap into doing more meaningful things in their life (what Nancy was talking about). Often this includes social entrepreneurship related activities, thinking about volunteer or opportunities to give money/time, starting a private foundation, or something else that is not about self, rather doing for others. Without further clarification from Nancy Lubin, I’m afraid she’s done a real injustice to herself and possibly alienated good people who wanted her help to move to a more meaningful career. My rant on social entrepreneurship a few weeks ago was designed to inspire people to “Do Something”, just as Nancy says, but unfortunately, after reading this, it seems many folks might not be interested in doing anything for “Do Something”. Perhaps it might help for her to clarify what she wrote, or perhaps that’s exactly how she feels. Stay tuned. I just love a good rant.

Here’s the article from Fast Company

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