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Are non-religious not-for-profits dodgey?

In the new book Driven by Purpose, the claim is made that of the 60,000 ‘charities’ across Australia, most have lost their way and are no longer clear about what they once stood for and why they now exist.  But it would appear that the divide being referenced is not between those with a clear purpose and those without, but between those that are faith-based and their “dodgey” counterparts.

One of the authors of the book (and Chief Executive of HammonCare), Dr Stephen Judd, was interviewed by Life Matters where he claims that a brand that doesn’t recognise the faith of the organisation is “bad marketing” because the public is more likely to support a faith-based charity than a “Dodgey Brothers” equivalent. And apparently organisational names without a faith element are “rinsed out” with no real meaning.

That’s a huge insult to the hundreds of non-religious not-for-profit groups across Australia, and the millions of people who support them.

We’re not suggesting that it isn’t crucial for not-for-profit organisations to have a clear purpose, but having a clear purpose doesn’t necessarily mean you’re heading in the right direction.

As Hootville Communications have pointed out, the one example Judd gives of a charity with a clear idea of itself is a faith-based medical outfit in the ACT which refuses to provide vasectomies or abortions despite being government funded. This is apparently a positive example.

Oh dear.

Judd also claims that the professionalisation of charities leaves them open to being “commercial outfits in drag”. Perhaps we should ask the clients of ‘professional’ not-for-profit organisations how they feel about receiving a high quality service? Surely no not-for-profit organisation, Christian or otherwise, could argue with professionalism that leads to better client care?

And that’s the most important point. Purpose-driven (subtext: driven by a religious purpose) or not, it’s social impact that we should be discussing here. Regardless of why an organisation exists (for religious reasons or otherwise), the outcomes it delivers for the community should be the only thing that really matters.

We’ll give the new book a miss.

We welcome your thoughts!



Oh dear, this is really alarming stuff. Just checking that we are in 2012?? Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

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