A few years ago, I served on the board of advisors of a Guatemalan animal welfare organization. This came to be after I had served as a volunteer for several years (and made donations when possible).  I learned a lot through the humility that comes with putting yourself in the background, letting the cause you love take central stage. I will later briefly mention the details that led to our mutual falling out with the non-profit, but for now, let’s focuse on 3 simple steps to identify when you need to part ways (either as an active volunteer, fund-raiser, donor or advisor) with an organization you believed in:

  1. Know when you’re outnumbered. The cardinal rule (as Merrick once told Buffy, it’s much easier to kill one vampire than a lot of them at the same time) applies. Your chances of getting your point across or initiative sold, will be diminished if your face with resistance from not one, but a lot of fellow members.
  2. Be clear about what you stand for, from the beginning. You’re all about animal rights, not animal welfare (believe me, there is a vast difference)? Then state it from the get go. Misinterpretations and conflicts of interest arise very easily. Letting the people who run and are a part of your non-profit know what your beliefs are will determine how long you stay with them (and why, above all).
  3. Take a cue from your favorite bands. Jason Newsted left Metallica when he felt his views were not being taken into consideration and that his side projects could not coexist with “the monster that is Metallica”. So, if you feel like the fun is over and that you constantly question your motives with remaining with this organization, it could be a red flag for you to consider packing your bags.

Now, when I decided to no longer be a part of this animal welfare organization’s board of advisors (and no longer volunteer or publicly support them), I knew that our differences in our core beliefs were huge. For instance, I opposed the initiative that contemplated using the biggest fast food chain in the world, in order to use their disposable place mats to educate people about companion animals. I voiced my opinion through email, then personally. We had disagreements between who did certain tasks, who took the credit and who refused to ask or accept for help. That’s about the executive summary of it. So, I hope my brief how to helps you keep things in perspective, if you ever encounter a similar scenario.

P.S. Yes, friendships may arise with other members, and not all of them will survive a falling out. It’s something to anticipate since, even though they are not for profit, these organizations are still a business. I’ll leave you with an outtake from Some Kind of Monster, where original Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, addresses some of the unresolved issues he had upon being fired by his band-mates (due to his alcoholism), faces a very emotional Lars Ulrich.

2 thoughts on “When to leave a non-profit

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