Non Profit Growth: From Hunter/Gatherer to Empire

As a casual redditor, I tend to learn some fascinating tidbits on human nature and the world. This post stood out for me. In a nutshell, the poster was asking why historically Native Americans and Africans were so far behind in technological advances, while European and Asian nations have grown by leaps and bounds. The answer was truly eye opening.

Jonah Halper Growth-chartThe first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian society. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: 1) access to high protein vegetation that endures storage; 2) a climate dry enough to allow storage; 3) access to animals docile enough for domestication and versatile enough to survive captivity. Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses. Surplus frees people up to specialize in activities other than sustenance and supports population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other. Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which in turn lead to the organization of nation-states and empires.[2]

In short, when a people can get past the immediate needs of survival, they can focus on specializations that can impact long term development and growth. When I thought about how this impacts philanthropy and organizational growth, I think the comparison is readily apparent.

Many institutions have their financial eggs in only a few baskets. They get funding from only minimal sources, but those sources help them stay afloat. However, this does not allow them to grow long term. They are constantly putting out fires because they do not have a wide base of support and are always in “hunter/gatherer mode”. They haven’t created silos to store their sources of funding.

Whenever working with our clients, we make sure to echo the importance of being proactive, and to find ways to create systems and a wider base of financial support. This will allow the organization time to step back and see how they can grow their mission and vision from being hunter/gatherers and become an empire!

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