Ruth McCambridge


It has bothered me for years to hear the designation of “leader” bestowed on every executive of a nonprofit and, frankly, on way too many philanthropic types. Do we not know a real leader when we see one?

Is leadership always so connected to control of money or hierarchy in our minds that we will always be mired in a set of priorities that have everything to do with institutional self-interest and less to do with a true attempt to make a radically different future when that is what is clearly called for?

To help us think about this question, I am linking to an article by Corbett Barklie from the last issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Finding a New Tune: How Arts Organizations Balance Creativity and Operations.” 

In my opinion the title does not do the article justice in the least – the piece is really about how institutions, institutional infrastructure, and assumptions can interrupt the desired relationship between impulse/purpose and audience/constituents.

It is an interesting and thought provoking notion, and one that can be overlaid on any number of fields. Are we so intimately attached to form and positional power that we can not see that at times they are acting as circuit breakers?

While NPQ believes deeply in nonprofit institutions as an embodiment of a community’s best intentions for itself, we also know that many of our readers are engaged in a real search for new ways to do their work. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and on taking beloved institutions apart to rebuild them differently.

NPQ knows whereof it speaks by the way, being in the midst of such stuff ourselves.

Looking forward to hearing from you!