Global Explorers Blog: Nonprofits
A young girl walks along a beach collecting sand dollars that have washed up on shore. Still alive, they are destined to dry out and die in the heat of the sun. She picks one up and throws it back into the ocean. She continues doing this, one by one. An older man walks up to her and asks, “Why are you doing this? There are thousands of sand dollars on this beach that are going to die. What you’re doing doesn’t really matter.”
The girl picks up another sand dollar and hurls it into the sea: “It matters to this one.”
As an environmental educator, I often used this story to show kids that their efforts to improve the world, no matter how small, made a difference.
As a director of a nonprofit organization, the story takes on a different meaning. To the surprise of many, nonprofits—and the foundations, corporations and individuals that support them—focus a lot on the bottom line. And they use many metrics to gauge progress towards achieving the bottom line. Nonprofits measure profit, but that profit is reinvested into the organizational mission rather than distributed to shareholders. How metrics are used and what they actually say about the strength of a program are a matter of debate.