NANOE Will Not Help Your Church

It’s been a long time since I heard from the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives (NANOE). But recently, emails from NANOE started popping up in my church inbox, each one asking me to join them for a church-oriented course on major gifts. I don’t know if any of my clergy colleagues have gotten these emails. But, just in case you have, here’s what you need to know. 

NANOE is one of those things that might not be a scam, but sure looks a lot like one. Founded by Jimmy LaRose in 2016, NANOE has what could best be described as a heterodox view of the nonprofit sector: executive directors should be completely in charge of their organizations, executive directors’ primary responsibility is raising money, boards should exist to support and be accountable to those executive directors, board members should be paid for their services, and donors should be nonprofit organizations’ primary focus. Or, as some tweets have put it: “Ethics + Accountability = Failed Best Practices” and “Money is More Important than Mission.

Almost everything about NANOE is a red flag. Looking at NANOE as an organization means wandering down a rabbit hole of interrelated organizations, including:

NANOE itself, which claims to be “the premier nationwide network of donors, volunteers and charitable leaders whose relentless commitment to sustainable impact transforms the communities we serve.” NANOE offers memberships, events, and credentials. It also has an Impact Innovation Campaign that aims to raise $6.7 million for over six years.

The National Development Institute (NDI) is the organization that actually administers the credentials that NANOE offers and runs the publishing house that published Jimmy LaRose’s book. It also publishes Inside Charity, a media platform that publishes articles promoting NANOE, its founder, and its board members.

In the weirdest example, the Ecumenical Churches of Christ Worldwide. Jimmy LaRose is an ordained minister in this church and holds a Doctorate in Philanthropic Studies from its ‘university’ The Presiding Bishop of the church (and founder of Ecumenical University) is the founding chair of NANOE. Despite that, ‘Doctorate in Philanthropic Studies’ is not listed as a degree that the university offers on the university’s website. And, of course, Ecumenical University is accredited only by… the Ecumenical Churches of Christ Worldwide.

And that is only the beginning. A NANOE membership gets you access to an online expo that includes, the Ecumenical Churches of Christ Worldwide, Doggette Law Firm (Jackson Doggette sits on NANOE’s board), DonorScope (created by Jimmy LaRose), Development Systems International and PAX Global (both of which Jimmy LaRose is CEO of), and so on.

But wait… there’s more! The memberships that I mentioned above give you access to website medallions (Best Practice Charity or Capacity Builder Enterprise depending on your membership level). And the credentials that NANOE offers—credentials that all of its board members proudly sport after their names—are also available for sale: $98 for any one, $148 for any two, or $198 for all three!

And, of course, there are the finances. It is a nonprofit organization that reported $56,534 in revenue and $58,750 in expenses for 2018 Almost $21,000 (36%) of those expenses were to independent contractors, $16,500 (28%) were for website maintenance, and $4,400 (7%) were for honoraria (remember that NANOE advocates for paying your board members and grants honoraria to its own board members). It reports no staff. 

You can probably guess why I’m concerned about my clergy colleagues and other church staff receiving emails from NANOE. While NANOE and Jimmy LaRose are infamous in the secular nonprofit world for blanketing nonprofit email address with invitations to become part of its strange world, they are not as well-known in the church. Despite its claims to help you “make five, six and seven figure major gifts available to your nonprofit in the shortest period of time possible”, NANOE is almost certainly not an organization that can help your church.

Right now, there is a movement in churches and nonprofits arguing that charity is toxic, that helping hurts, and that the entire nonprofit sector needs to be reformed to truly lift people out of poverty. These charity skeptics are telling Christians that traditional charity deepens dependency, fosters a sense of entitlement, and erodes the work ethic of people who receive it. Charity skepticism is increasingly popular; and it is almost certainly wrong.

Now available from Wipf and Stock’s Cascade Books imprint, Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church) weaves together research and scholarship on topics as diverse as biblical scholarship, Christian history, economics, and behavioral psychology to tell a different story. In this story, charity is the heart of Christianity and one of the most effective ways that we can help people who are living in poverty. Charity—giving to people experiencing poverty without any expectation of return or reformation—can save the world and help make God’s vision for the church a reality.

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