15 August 2005

Are nonprofit agencies the customers from hell?

There's actually something worse than a nonprofit agency that makes crisis-driven decisions: the agency that strings vendors along for months or years.

It's humiliating to tell the patient and long-suffering vendor who has put so much time into drawing up a needs assessment, a proposal, and a price quote that you can't get a "yes" or "no" answer from the manager who needs to sign off on it. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has gleefully gone to a vendor with the go-ahead, after a mere 18 month delay, only to find that he has withdrawn the quote or even changed jobs. Can you really blame him for moving on with his life while the nonprofit agency dithered?

This sort of behavior on the part of nonprofit agencies only encourages people to regard us as the customers from hell. Any warm feelings they may get from offering their products or services to an organization with a worthy mission are off-set by the wear and tear that we inflict on their cardio-vascular systems.


autumn said...

Interesting point... and although I never personally had to string a vendor along for 18 months, I definitely had to do my sharing of stringing b/c top management was dragging feet and being indecisive. (And by this, I mean tippy top... highest level people who really didn't need to be involved in the color of the engraving plate or the font style on the community award, for instance). I don't see this kind of clawing micromanaging in the corporate world, where people seem to be a little more willing to let go of things to their subordinates... Have you experienced this? Is there just more micromanaging in nonprofits?? If you think so, why?

Anonymous said...

I think it has more to do with the current bureaucratic and "take to risks" mentality than whether or not an organization is for or non profit. I have seen this exact same behavior in a 500 person corporation - its just that in the corporate world habitual indecisiveness tends to lead to failure/going our of business more quickly, since poor executive management affects the bottom line.

NonprofitCurmudgeon said...

"I have seen this exact same behavior in a 500 person corporation..."

If the organizational problems are the same, maybe I should try a new career as a corporate management guru! On the other hand, I doubt that the business sector would be any more receptive to my critiques than the nonprofit sector.