“Why do things seem to stay pretty much the same? Why have our Alzheimer’s charities not found a cure for Alzheimer’s? Why have our homeless shelters not solved the problem of homelessness? Why do children still go hungry on the streets of America? Why have the pictures of the starving children in Africa not changed in five decades? Why, in this age of incredible affluence, do we seem unable to close the gaps that divide those who live in comfort, and those who suffer?” –Uncharitable-By Dan Pallotta

In the next few days, I’m going to take you through six common misconceptions, what I’ve noticed about what is keeping us from solving the problem of domestic violence, of poverty, of racism, of inequality, of sexism, of corporate abuse, of childhood obesity, of environmentalism, of all of the causes that we care about solving.

Our problem is basically ideological.

Common Misconception One “Charities should not take risks. They are taking risks with earmarked funds. They should be cautious.”

So we are punishing courage, rewarding timidity.

This is directly related to the idea that charities should not make mistakes. A mistake means a charity is wasting money and waste is immoral.

Have you ever been punished in a nonprofit for making a mistake, even a small one, that has cost you your job?

A nonprofit friend writes in: “Once one of our appeal letters wasn’t photocopied correctly by a volunteer. I didn’t check every single letter before they were stuffed into envelopes. This letter went to a community partner who expressed her disappointment to my boss. So I was fired.”

Is this right? Is this fair? Why do such small mistakes mean that we are no longer allowed to work at a nonprofit?

The more that charities take calculated risks, the better the chance that they will break new ground. The more mistakes a charity makes in good faith, the faster it will learn and the quicker it will be able to solve complex problems This is the only path to solving problems, one must fail upward.

If you are a nonprofit leader, how can you reward people for asking questions, and for making mistakes?

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