How to Serve a Nonprofit Well

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Arloa Sutter in The Invisible: What the Church Can Do to Find and Serve the Least of These taught me the value of knowing the people you serve. And it’s not just understanding them as people and individuals—it’s knowing by experience.

Sometimes new nonprofits flop because the staff, volunteers, and sometimes even the board maintain distance from the people who need them the most. Living in the neighborhood, immersing yourself in that community’s struggles, and being part of the solution is a powerful position to change the world in the life of a person.

I’m not the one to talk. I’ve served on boards in another state, far from the work being done. I’ve tried to help nonprofits that only wanted my dollar bills, not my time or talent. Sometimes an organization wants my help because I’d bring a “fresh perspective” and some outside-the-group-think thinking. Yet, I knew that there was a part of me that just didn’t quite get it. I couldn’t connect with the clients, so my time and talent were not as useful to the organization.

The passage above can provide insight into the need for humility, grace, and God’s acceptance of all people no matter their list of sins. Re-reading it with an eye for motivation means that I have to read it knowing that I can be the Pharisee because of my motivation. It’s the internal intention that shows itself in humility and grace, or the lack thereof.

No matter your role or location, check your motivation. Do you serve for the luxury of being associated with an organization? Or do you have a passion for the work they do? Do you know clients, or just about the clients?

I’m not saying that everyone should quit their jobs, move, and become a client of a nonprofit. What I am encouraging is a reflection to make sure that you are not like the first man in the story that Jesus tells us. It takes humility, he says, to serve well.

Look at your motivations today. Are you the Pharisee or the tax collector? Share your thoughts on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at

Note: I did not receive any compensation for this blog post. Some of the links above are “affiliate links.” If you use this link, I receive a small affiliate commission. I recommend books, products, or services that I have enjoyed using and believe you will benefit from as well. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  1. Thoughts that come to mind. To feel/touch, see, smell and taste, all bring thoughts to mind of why we serve and who we are led to serve. Walking side by side with those He has led us to reminds me of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

    A “Foot Washing” from years ago put things smack dab in my face. Two persons that I was blessed to encounter, one with calloused feet almost an inch thick but unnoticed because this day they wore shoes and they other had smooth and soft feet. Neither was wrong or right but I’ll never forget the difference and being reminded that until I “walk that mile” with someone, who am I to judge.

    Volunteer and be a part of _______, where the Lord leads and fully invest with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

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