Transforming the culture inside non-profits

I believe do-good organizations run on the stuff they call “good culture” and we should all strive to create a creative, inspiring, fun environment for solving the world’s problems.

2 minutes ago · Like

A recent FastCompany article ( highlighted how an outstanding environment inside a company makes it more successful than great strategic planning. The same applies to GlobalGiving and the many partner organizations we support. Here’s a recent Facebook conversation:

From Dread to Excitement

Colleen’s project: Provide Equine Therapies For 100 Children In Need

I believe GlobalGiving has made fundraising fun for many organizations. Our next goal should be to aid organizations in creating the kind of internal culture that fosters innovation, creativity, a hunger for changing lives, an openness to failure, curiosity about the world, a willingness to work for what matters and never to settle for merely what one can find funding for, and a daringness to experiment.

If we knew the answers to the world’s problems, then the world would be progressing towards utopia, but it is not. And, as Mari Kuraishi says, “since there is never enough money for everybody and everything, we need to help more organizations do what matters most, even if some of them take risks that don’t pay off in the end.”

The extraordinary culture inside GlobalGiving is why I – as a Neuroscientist – still work there and not in a research lab. It’s why Kevin – one of our superstar programmers – works there instead of for Google. It’s why every year dozens of college students intern with us for free (or at least for far less money than they deserve): We believe in what we do; we believe we’re going somewhere; and that what we do matters in the world. 

Some day I hope to bring that culture into a research lab at a University. I’d start by painting the walls bright colors instead of white, and putting up posters of the giants of science who’ve been there. I’d ask people not just what they want to do, but for whom in the world will that make a difference? If it was cancer, then I’d bring cancer patients by the lab to meet the scientists, make friends, and invite them to offer each other hope and inspiration. We need each other.

I’d find ways to crowd-source the problem of analysis of some problems, and the task of keeping up with the mountain of new research findings published daily. Cancer patients would love to be able to contribute to their own cures, and where there’s a “good culture,” there’s a way. We need each other. Sadly, too many scientists have been too busy to notice that the world is a giant untapped innovation machine waiting for us to plug into it.

3 thoughts on “Transforming the culture inside non-profits

  1. It later occurred to me you could replace the words “cancer patient” with “beneficiary” and “scientist” with “aid worker” and you would have a perfect recipe for international development too!

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