Nonprofit trends – and their associated jargon – seem to come in waves. Given the disparate and atomized nature of the sector, it’s striking that new notions and terms fall into place so rapidly. I think of that viral video of starlings flying in unison. Somehow, magically, we all start moving in the same direction – perhaps because we don’t want to be left behind. Or eaten by hawks.
One of the hottest bits of jargon the last few years is “scaling up,” or “going to scale.” As with a lot of nonprofit speak, the obsession with scale seems to have originated in the foundation world. (This is consistent with the nonprofit sector’s golden rule: “Those who have the gold make the rules.”) A few years ago, some influential foundation leaders seem to have decided, in whatever way they decide these things, that in order to have their dollars go further, they should focus their grantmaking on programs that can be scaled up. Other funders began to spout the same idea. Continue reading