If Nonprofits Aren't Working Themselves Out of Business, They're Failing

Nancy Lubin says charities have become like vampires. They ought to focus more on working themselves out of existence (or risk getting staked).

Writing for Fast Company, Nancy Lubin argues that charities have become like vampires—and that they ought to focus more on working themselves out of existence.

Just as in the for-profit sector, not-for-profits should have earthly life cycles. But it's actually hard for a not-for-profit to die, in part because, legally, dissolution "is still more onerous than it should be," says Sean Delany, executive director of the Lawyers Alliance for New York, which provides pro bono counsel to thousands of organizations. That aside, we all agree that, given limited funds and pressing needs, our common concern should be maximizing our resources. A not-for-profit exists to cure something, address an issue, or elevate the status of a group of people; if and when that's achieved, we should be done. This is a little different from the for-profit sector, where companies die of failure -- I'm calling for death by success. In any case, simply put, the vampires gotta go.


Charities, Lubin writes, should wear termination notices as "badges of honor." She cites the September 11th Fund as a charity that did it right; it raised $534 million for families and businesses affected by 9/11, distributed that money, and shut its doors by 2004.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Marianne O'Leary