Why Do Nonprofits exist?
Human society is no Utopia. It is susceptible to our failings as people and has been plagued with anomalies, inequities and exploitation since times immemorial. These shortcomings have and still impede the development of everyone in the society. Ideally, the responsibility of addressing and correcting these inadequacies lies with the governments and local administrations. However, in reality governmental agencies either do not have the vision or the required resources on the ground or both to facilitate positive social change. This lacuna in delivering socio-economic development is fulfilled by Nonprofits also known as NGOs (Non-governmental organizations). They reach communities and places where government cannot or does not reach.
A huge and profoundly diverse country like India has its own historical baggage of social evils- caste-based discrimination, gender inequality and crime against women, religious violence coupled with low Human Development Index in elementary education, primary healh, sanitation and water. Governance in India on most occasions has been found to be sub-optimal, sometimes completely dysfunctional and inaccessible to marginalized communities. Under these circumstances, Nonprofits and social entrepreneurs have emerged strongly and stare at myriad opportunities to make impact.
Who is a Nonprofit entrepreneur?
What distinguishes a non-profit entrepreneur (different from social entrepreneur who chases social impact with profits) from a commercial entrepreneur is his passion to bring about a positive social change While a commercial entrepreneur looks for a exploitable business opportunity in any favorable situation, a nonprofit entrepreneur dreams of creating a difference, much beyond the materialistic terms. He strives to brings together like minded people to create a social movement for the greater good of many. Take for example Shaheen Mistri, who founded Teach For India (TFI) with a sole vision of making elementary education accessible to every child in India and thus resolving educational inequality. This has now grown into a movement where volunteers from across the country join TFI to educate children around them.
How do nonprofits measure their impact?
The success of a nonprofit rests on delivering positive social impact to its target population. So, a life skills based education nonprofit would focus on continuously increasing the number of children educated, while a healthcare nonprofit may concern itself to making sure that maximum rural populace get access to primary healthcare on need basis. Goonj, a social non-profit organization, has produced over 2.5 million sanitary pads out of waste cloth & sourced it to villages/slums across India as a viable solution to lack of female hygiene. Further they run campaigns to talk freely about the tabooed subject of periods and also provide livelihood to countless women alongside.
That being said, the ultimate impact would be reaching 100% of target population and achieving all the intended parameters of social impact. Hypothetically, a nonprofit that has generated 100% impact and addressed all its objectives would have no reason to exist. This is in contrast to a business enterprise which constantly seeks to outgrow itself and maximize it’s scale and profits. As, Sweta Ranganathan, Co-Founder of ApniShala succinctly puts it, “Our vision is to eliminate the need for ApniShala; Empowering teachers by equipping them to teach life skills to their students so that one day we are not required.”
Nonprofits exist to address and eliminate specific socio-cultural-environmental problems by bringing about a positive change in their target population. Interestingly, the ultimate paradox of a nonprofit is to eliminate its own existence. That’s what every nonprofit should aim for.
Cover Photo courtesy of Charity: Water
Topmost Photo copyright Shaheen Mistri