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You Don’t Have to be in a Shithole Nonprofit

Seliger + Associates’s main offices recently moved to Downtown Santa Monica. Those of you who have visited Santa Monica recently know that the area has finally upzoned (which is great) and has tons of new buildings that make it somewhat urban. Santa Monica has some of the world’s most valuable real estate, so insisting on one- or two-story houses makes no sense, but that’s classic American urban policy.

(In addition to five- and six-story apartment buildings, Santa Monica is also now filled with $30 plates of pasta and $5 cups of pour-over coffee, but that’s a separate issue.)

Isaac found a European tailor near the office who’s had a shop in Downtown Santa Monica for over 30 years. One day, Isaac asked Gabor if he loves the new developments, since the tailor now has a ton of customers within walking distance. He does. What did Downtown Santa Monica used to be like? Gabor just said, “The houses were shitholes.”

We’re naturally telling this story for a reason. We’ve heard the same kind of description from some clients when they discuss their own agencies. But nonprofits are more like businesses than most people realize. If you don’t like your neighborhood, you might have to wait decades for the political winds to shift regarding development.

But if you don’t like the nonprofit you’re working for,* grab a hammer and go build your own. You’re not beholden to the existing nonprofit. Maybe you can do a better job. Nonprofits aren’t that hard to start, and if you don’t want to deal with the paperwork, you can hire an account or lawyer to do it for you. People create nonprofits all the time.

Think your local nonprofit is a shithole or is otherwise doing a lousy job? Go do it better down the street. We’ve worked for a number of nonprofits started by disgruntled members of the dominant nonprofit who then went on to compete for the same kinds of grants. Dominant nonprofits are often made lazy by success and start to forget that success is never final.

* Or the one serving your neighborhood. Plenty of nonprofits start this way.

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