The nonprofit industrial complex creates a top-down relationship between nonprofits and communities

Too often, the above pressures cause nonprofits to engage with communities on the terms of the select few who have the most power. This sets organizations up to reinforce strategies that treat inequity as an issue of individuals rather than of systems, because these are the strategies that align with their funders’ worldview.

If nonprofits want to be a part of systemic change, they should instead be taking cues from grassroots movements built by communities. There are organizations created by and for the most marginalized, organizations that actively challenge the nonprofit industrial complex in the way they operate. While we’ve seen an increase in their numbers, it’s not uncommon for these organizations to remain outside of the nonprofit world, either due to lack of resources or because they intentionally choose to remain free of the nonprofit industrial complex’s influence. (After all, we know too well how often people of color in nonprofits are met with hostility and resistance when we challenge the status quo.)

The fact is, the very structure of the nonprofit sector serves to maintain the current world order, even when individuals in the sector seek to change it. This is the nature of the nonprofit industrial complex.