Civil Benefit Organizations
We wrote recently about the nonprofit sector’s name as something we’re not, as something that doesn’t say what we do, how we do it or what comes of it. So we concluded that the descriptor “nonprofit” has to go.
But what to call ourselves? Response wasn’t overwhelming, although there were some very good ideas generated, really good ones. Unfortunately, like the ten we cited, all suggested names left something out that needed to be there.
The idea of “benefit” seemed appropriate in describing the work, so we needed to find the all-embracing element that received the benefit. The more we explored the word “civil” in its roots and meaning, the better it got.
We know about civil service, civil unions, civil rights, even civil war, so why not use that word “civil?” It seems to cover a lot of the area in which we work.
Merriam-Webster defines, among many definitions, “civil” in this way:
of or relating to citizens
of or relating to the state or its citizenry
We need to split one particular hair: religion. Civil would not encompass the theology of religion, although it would describe many of the things organized religion does, e.g. feeding the hungry, teaching, care for the sick. So we wind up with two groups: those religious groups not having to file 990s, e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques; and those religious civil benefit groups, many in the institutions described above, doing good for society. Works for me.
So we bring civilization, we stand for civility, we benefit society and we may have a name.
But wait a minute. Is “benefit” the most appropriate descriptor of our outputs? Messrs. Merriam and Webster give a number of meanings including the following about “benefit”
We can bring back the archaic meaning for completeness! We can have Civil Benefit organization benefits! We clearly benefit. Seriously, the word does fit what we are looking for.
The Civil Benefit Sector, as our new name, takes thought and time to work. At least it is a step in the right direction. However it needs to replace other words completely, not be just a stop in our naming journey. So what are its limitation? First, it takes all of the above to fit it into the needed categories. It is not intuitively there. It takes some learning. Then there’s the inertia resisting any change. Why bother?
What is the upside of redoing lots of ingrained assumptions, use and recognition? Well, it should be a long-term fix of the problem. It should immediately explain to the person from Mars or Venus what our sector does.
Finally, it may, hopefully, unite us in an overall sector mission that reminds us what we do and what we want as a result of what we do. So let’s start talking about the potential change.