Why I will never do another “free” nonprofit

Why I will never do another “free” nonprofit

I remember starting my nonprofit in college. I felt like an adult: 22 years old starting a nonprofit and ready to tackle every need that came my way. I remember receiving the letter from the IRS saying, “Congrats, Transition Furniture is a nonprofit.” I was ready to collect and fundraise thousands of dollars to turn the nonprofit into a full-time job! I quickly ran into a problem.

I was serving people for free! I wanted to help everyone that needed furniture. I did not ask questions, and I was so compassion driven that I quickly ran into burnout. I had to take a step back analyze my purpose in the mission of Transition Furniture. I restructured the process, but I still continued to serve people for free, and people did not pay a dime for the furniture they received. It became a problem, so what did I do? I took another step back.

I walked away from the nonprofit because I knew that my helping was not doing anything but continuing to empower people with a free label. I was serving people, but to what point was I serving them? Was I empowering them to continue to another free event? Was I telling them to come back again and get more free items? Was I truly serving people in need? Yes, I do believe in helping people in need, but when do we realize that meeting a temporary need is not always the answer.

I recently finished my MBA, and my thinking process has completely changed. Starting a nonprofit at the age of 22 was not the smartest idea. I thought money would flow in because I was young and making an impact on the community. I quickly realized that funders want to see sustainability before asking for money. Now, I have an idea of what I would have done differently.

If I could go back in time, I would setup a furniture store based on income. I made sure to get good quality furniture from the people wanting to donate to Transition Furniture. I would tell people, “If you would not have it in your house, please do not give it to me.” This would eliminate the idea that Transition Furniture was just the hand me down place to donate. The new idea for the store would be that families would be able to come in and purchase furniture at a price they can afford. There is a lot of hard working people out there, but furniture is expensive, and they cannot afford to buy new. Transition Furniture would be a place for affordable place to reward individuals/families for their hard work. Transition Furniture would be a place to restore hope in hopeless situations and give them the push they need to continue working hard. Shopping at Transition Furniture store would be the beginning of their empowerment journey.

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Compassion and Culture

I just started a new book by David Platt called Counter Culture. He is breaking down nine areas that our culture has basically allowed to become social norms. The book has me thinking a lot about the word compassion and how to be compassionate in a world that is broken and without compassion.

First, compassion moves us to action not anger. We as Christ’s disciples have to realize that he didn’t call us to be angry at the world but he called us to love it. This doesn’t mean we must keep silent about issues but there is a right way to standup for what you believe and protesting isn’t one of them. We have killed our witness over social media platforms because of us “protesting” in the name of Christ. It is easier to protest against someone than to love them. We have gotten really good at protesting but lack in love.

Second, everyone is called to be compassionate not just a few people. I do not like when you people say, “Daniel, you are so compassionate.” It makes me upset because it is almost like they are saying “thank you for doing my part as a disciple for me”. Compassion is a call for everyone. The issues and the cries of this world should break your heart. It shouldn’t make you look around and encourage people that are living out a compassionate life. Your encouragement doesn’t replace your responsibility to be compassionate.

Third, GET INVOLVED! Nothing makes me more upset than people that talk about an issue but aren’t doing anything to help. The world has seen enough talkers, they are looking for doers. Your greatest witness to the world is to show them you care further than your pew seat. Pews keep making the Christian church more comfortable while the world is crying out. Don’t be afraid to get involved in someone else’s mess.

Don’t be a bystander anymore. Get involved in some mess. It is time that we quit making the word compassionate about how big of a check we write. Checks don’t replace your compassionate duties. My prayer is that we don’t just write checks but get involved with the place our check is going towards. What would happen if we activated compassionate loving disciples in a broken and dying world?