The Value of Vice: Re-thinking our bad habits

by Elaina

What? The Value of Vice?

"Bad Habit Baby" by Flickr user HidingInABunker

I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. I once took a class on using yoga to address addiction, and my favorite lesson was on recognizing benefits that we receive from our bad habits.

Examples of these benefits include people who feel relaxation from smoking, someone who addresses social anxiety by drinking or another who escapes a negative memory by using drugs.

Just to be clear, I am not encouraging people to smoke, drink excessively or do drugs, as these habits have numerous and severe negative consequences. However, by recognizing and addressing the benefits received, people can search out positive ways to access them, which helps them be more successful in leaving their addictions behind.


What does your nonprofit gain from bad habits?

There’s no shortage of books, blogs, workshops and consultants talking about bad practices used by nonprofits, but organizations still stick to these habits and others keep picking them up. Might we move more organizations away from these practices if we pause to recognize what is gained from them?

As an example, let’s look for benefits associated with nonprofits who hesitate to build a communications strategy. I have known nonprofits with a strong DIY ethos that felt empowered by figuring it out themselves. Some felt encouraged by the likes and followers they gained without a strategy, and others saw themselves as saving money by not investing in a process that they saw as unnecessary.

By recognizing and addressing those benefits and fears, we can re-frame building a strategy:

  • Building a strategy doesn’t mean you have to lose your DIY experience. Look at working strategically as a way to build new skills and do more with your time.
  • It’s hard work to gain likes and followers, so recognize the efforts of those who have gotten you where you are. By setting concrete goals, identifying target audiences and working from a messaging framework, you will likely find future gains easier.
  • Likes and followers are metrics to measure your success, but building a strategy will mean choosing goals that have a more direct benefit to your nonprofit.
  • Recognize that, as you pay your staff, their time is just as valuable as cash spent. Moving ahead without a plan often results in wasted efforts, but, by building a strategy, you will be able to use staff time more effectively.
  • Many nonprofits have found success by utilizing volunteers to build their communications strategy, allowing them to make great strides forward on a limited budget.

Of course, this is only one example of a bad nonprofit habit, but I hope that this encourages you to change your thinking of how to handle others.

What are benefits that you receive from some of your bad habits, and how might you use them to help you find a better solution?