Recently, it came to me that we are in the middle of an election season. Well, alright, I completely was aware that 2010 was a mid-term election year federally. What I did not account for was the overall politicization that has engulfed the nonprofit community in the years not just since 2008, but rather since the beginning of the Great Recession.
My thoughts drifted from how the field is viewed by Americans in general to how we in the field view ourselves and our organizations.
Are nonprofits inherently liberal? Or are they inherently conservative?
What dictates the political feeling of a nonprofit? Is its mission? How the nonprofit operates? Is it how the staff spends it political donations? Or it is how the staff approaches solving the external problems outlined in its goals?
I have not done much statistical research into this topic. I can believe there might be a plethora, and I can believe there has been very little done on the topic. The curiosity of mine also surrounds what the American public thinks about the politics of nonprofits. For a sector that contains in its name “not-for-Greenbacks”, does that instantly sound off bells in people’s minds that nonprofits are thus liberal?
Now I know there are “political” nonprofits. Ones that use their money to support either a candidate or particular cause in states or Congress. Those nonprofits I am not discussing in this post. I want to know what underlying political tone, if any, does the nonprofit sector send to the American people?
Much like how supposedly college professors scream liberal and car mechanics scream conservative, do people who work in nonprofits scream some political bent as well? And if so, do we then pass on that stereotype to the organizations we work for?
Now, what does this have to do with beginning your work in a nonprofit? Plenty. Communication and presentation has so many effects on the ability of a nonprofit to accomplish its mission, its hard to keep track. From the people it hires, to the donors that choose to contribute, to the coverage a media outlet may have on an announcement – what brand of politics your organization may be advertising to the world, well, may just shape that world you operate in.
My opinion is that nonprofits are inherently liberal in mission, while conservative in actions. However, because of our mission most of our actions when still be of the moderately conservative mentality, and not full-bore conservation. Disagree? Any experience on your end?