Why the Unhinged Hubris of Jimmy LaRose and NANOE is Toxic to Nonprofits
Jimmy LaRose has never really been on my radar screen.
Sure, I had heard of NANOE, mostly through spam emails that assured me I had been appointed to a prestigious and exclusive Board of Directors, without my consent or knowledge.
Curious about the organization (and really wondering why Dan Pallotta seemed to be involved) I conducted a brief Google search.
I determined that LaRose and his misguided posse were simply running a scam, but it seemed harmless. At first.
I checked with a few of my go-to experts in the nonprofit sector, and they assured me that NANOE is your basic, garden-variety money-making racket, and that I should just ignore it.
My approach was to not feed the trolls, not engage, just delete and move on.
This all changed when I read La Rose’s unhinged, badly-cited, and completely uninformed op-ed piece in Inside Charity this week.
It read like a piece on Brietbart — the rantings of yet another angry, ignorant, fragile white man, attacking the principles of the #MeToo movement and the vital importance of sexual harassment training and awareness.
This, I thought, cannot stand.
I knew that I had to roll up my sleeves and fight back.
So, What is NANOE?
For my readers that are blessedly unfamiliar with the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives (NANOE), here are some highlights:
- Through 2015–2017, this group sent unsolicited emails to thousands of nonprofit professionals and consultants informing them that they had been “nominated” to serve on the founding Board of Governors for this new association. (It is unclear the benefits of accepting the nomination, and as Jim Anderson of GoalBusters quickly discovered, just about anyone can accept and/or nominate themselves on the NANOE website. Not so exclusive after all.)
- Their claim to fame is their philosophy: “Money is more important than mission. Donors are more important than clients, causes or people.” (Aren’t clients people? I’m confused.)
- LaRose has claimed that nonprofits who are not 100% focused on raising money should close until they get their act together (no word yet on how this magically happens). He said: “‘Jimmy, if we do what Nanoe is saying, we’ll have to stop serving kids.’ And you know what I say? I say, ‘Stop serving kids’ — that is, until the organization boosts fundraising enough that they can serve many more children.”
- They seem to be very paranoid, claiming that so-called “intermediary nonprofits” are “colluding together” against them.
- NANOE espouses the idea that nonprofit EDs should also serve as Board chairs, and that even the tiniest, most grassroots nonprofits should pay Board members to serve on the board. This is because, as NANOE’s board chair Bishop Redfern II says, “We do not live in a socialist country. We live in a capitalist country.” (Thanks for the civics lesson, Bishop!)
At the heart of NANOE is the ridiculous notion that all nonprofits should change their mission statements to “care for donors first.”
LaRose highlights what he calls the ideal mission statement, in one of his videos.
It goes like this: “Harvest Town Food Bank provides donors, volunteers, and advocates the organizations they require to serve our community’s hurting, hungry, and homeless.”
This is when it really starts to hurt my head.
I don’t know about you, but every single nonprofit that I have ever worked for would LOSE donors and community support instantly if we changed our mission to this insanity.
Nonprofits and #MeToo
The most outlandish quote from the Inside Charity article has to be:
“Fundraisers, both men and women alike, can be trusted to make decisions that protect donors, themselves and the organizations they serve.”
He claims that no one attends AFP ethics training: “No one goes cause (sic) no one needs it.”
The ignorance, ego, and privilege living in those statements is ASTOUNDING.
LaRose has apparently never been a young female Development Director, navigating her first job, not knowing how to handle the creepy half-advances from a major-gift-giving Board member.
He’s never been a long-serving ED who couldn’t get adequate respect due to his/her/their gender identity.
He apparently hasn’t had to face the prospect of offending a lecherous foundation program officer, or a handsy Board chair, or an inappropriate-joke-telling co-worker.
He is completely writing off the experiences of 25 percent of all female fundraisers and 7 percent of male fundraisers who have been sexually harassed. AND THOSE ARE JUST THE PEOPLE WHO REPORTED!
Can you imagine how much higher the actual number would be, if everyone who experienced harassment actually came forward?
If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it’s that men and women alike CANNOT be trusted to make the right decisions, not when it comes to sexual harassment and discrimination.
Men like LaRose are a gigantic part of the problem.
Instead of demonstrating empathy and a willingness to do better, they ridicule those who would come forward with their painful experiences
They belittle the institutions who are trying to do better and be better, and who actively work with nonprofits to understand the problem and to create solutions.
Nonprofits Should Be Ethics First
LaRose and his merry band of miscreants do not seem to understand the nonprofit sector and what it stands for — at all.
The message that donors are more important than clients, mission, or cause, is not only ludicrous, it is incredibly dangerous.
Nonprofit and public sector organizations are already under attack in the court of public opinion, facing increased scrutiny and eroded trust.
Those of us in the sector are so close to the work that we can’t see it. But ask a random person on the street if they give to charity.
Chances are they will say what many people have told me — “I do sometimes, but I just don’t know where the money goes. Charities are so focused on overhead, fancy fundraisers, galas, etc. Does the money really go to the mission?”
It seems that NANOE has no experience with actual donors — the ones that give $10/month to the causes they care about, who sponsor tables at fundraising events, who run in marathons and ask their friends and family to donate on their behalf.
If they did, they would know that donors really only want to know ONE THING from the charities they support: Did my gift contribute to something meaningful?
Donors do not want to be held up as more important than the clients, mission, or cause.
And as stewards of their funds and of their trust, shouldn’t we be more thoughtful about what they DO want?
No, I didn’t reach out to LaRose and NANOE to comment on this piece. This is my opinion, and I don’t need anyone else mansplaining to me the faults of the #MeToo movement and the supposedly unfounded hysteria over sexual harassment and discrimination.
Plus, LaRose didn’t talk to anyone before writing his rant in Inside Charity.
Just because there are two sides to every story doesn’t mean that they both deserve equal attention and that they are of equal merit.
It seems almost laughable that Jimmy LaRose is accusing AFP of selling “snake oil” when his organization and its proponents are helping erode the trust that people have in the nonprofit sector.
Don’t just ignore them — fight back.
Learned something? Hold down the 👏 to say “thanks!” and help others find this article.
This post first appeared on Julia Campbell’s blog, www.jcsocialmarketing.com