Dr. Seuss on the growth of your non-profit organization

growth“I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy!”

Business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

— Written my Dr. Seuss in The Lorax

You hear it all the time from for-profit business people, “If you’re not growing, then you’re dying.” If you want proof that this is the mantra of the business community, turn on the news or open your newspaper. Oh heck, just Google it and you’ll find more than you can read.
However, isn’t this also the mantra of the non-profit community? In my almost 20 years of experience, it certainly seems to be. The following are just a few things I constantly hear my non-profit clients saying:

  • Our facility is too small (or too old), and we need to raise money to build a new one to serve more people.”
  • The state just released a new grant RFP, and we should look at expanding programming if we hope to qualify.
  • We don’t have enough board volunteers and need to add more.
  • Operating expenses keep rising and we need to add another fundraising campaign or event.

changesSo, I guess Dr. Seuss is right again . . . “Business is business!” It must just be a function of human nature, right? Because I see corporate America constantly expanding. I see the non-profit sector doing the same thing. And I may just get sick if I hear one more person rant about the expanding size of government on my television (I probably just need to learn how to use my remote and change the channel.)
There is lots and lots of wisdom in Dr. Seuss’ words and there are lots of directions I could go with my blog post this morning, but it is his last sentence that sticks with me.
I don’t know about you, but I believe “crummies in tummies” is an obvious reference to:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • uncertainty

I think he is saying the idea of growth is a force at work at all times in our organizations, and it is likely a stressor.  While I believe this to be true, I’m choosing to look at this as a clarion call rather than a truism. I think the good doctor is making the case for . . .


In my experience, non-profit organizations who plan for growth don’t have many “crummies in tummies.” And I’m not just talking about developing one plan . . . those organizations have many plans including:

  • Strategic plan
  • Long term plan
  • Business plan
  • Resource development plan
  • Board Development plan
  • Compensation & Benefits Plan
  • Program plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Crisis communications plan
  • Succession plan

planningI know that many people look at this list and immediately reject it, but if Dr. Seuss is right and “Business is business! And business must grow” then change is inevitable inside of our organizations. And if change is inevitable, then why put on a blindfold and take the proverbal steering wheel of your organization?
If this post intrigued you but you’re not sure how or where to start, you might want to check out a few of these resources I recently found online:

Of course, if you are looking for an external consultant and partner to help your agency with facilitating you plan, I know of someone who might be willing to help.  😉
I am feeling whimsical this morning. So, please scroll down and use the comment box below to share what this Dr. Seuss quote inspired you to think about this morning. Your thoughts and experiences are appreciated and will likely help inspire other non-profit professionals and volunteers reading this blog.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC


  1. Business is not a dirty word! It’s a call to action. To plan as you say. To understand our markets and donors. To lead with smarts – and integrity! To provide the best for our customers so they come back often. Our NFPs must strive to BE the best business in town!

    1. Fred … It is always good to see you around these parts of the internet. Thanks for the comment. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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