I keep hearing about how there are too many nonprofits. Can you imagine that? There are too many little organizations out there struggling on a shoestring budget to do good work for the community. If you hear this enough, perhaps you'll start to think that we've solved all of our community's problems or that there are some undeserving people getting services that they shouldn't.
Of course, this isn't what is meant by "too many nonprofits". What people mean is that there are a lot of organizations doing similar yet uncoordinated work. Perhaps this is true. Maybe the nonprofit providing services to one neighborhood should align its work with the nonprofit in another neighborhood. Maybe there are certain nonprofits that can gain economies of scale by working together. Perhaps they should co-author grants. Perhaps they should share resources and services. Perhaps they should merge. I imagine that there are benefits to many of these solutions.
What I care most about, though, is how the statement "too many nonprofits" impacts behavior, specifically behavior related to innovation. If you believe there are too many nonprofits, would you ever consider supporting the creation of a new one? Would you consider investing your time and money in an innovative idea that may someday grow into an organization of its own?
No one ever says that there are too many small businesses. Indeed, small businesses are touted as the "engines of innovation". We believe that entrepreneurs will go out into the world and try their ideas. Some will succeed, most will fail. In the end, though, some new ideas will thrive, commerce will ensue, and the world will advance.
Where is the analogy in the social sector? Do we believe that innovation will spontaneously occur in the cash-strapped organizations that exist today? I contend that the answer is "No!"
So, the next time you are about to say that there are too many nonprofits, please stop yourself. Perhaps what you mean to say is that there isn't enough exploring of new ways of operating or enough learning from each other. Perhaps you mean to say that there aren't enough people innovating and making the world a better place.