The caller wanted to know what services our organization provided. I asked her what she meant. "I need services, and I wanted to know what you offer," she said. I asked her what services she needed. She needed lots of services, she said.
We finally got down to specifics, and she ran down her list of needs. Our organization was not able to provide any of those services, and I suggested some other organizations she might try in hopes of gaining those services.
After the call, I began thinking about the caller and her need for services. This was a woman, it seemed to me, who expected to be served by others — in this case by other nonprofit organizations. Rather than tackling the problems herself — good old American self-reliance — she wanted someone else to do the heavy lifting and, I suspect, provide the capital to pay whatever expenses her needed "services" might entail.
Nonprofits see a fair number of people who simply want to be provided for, without ever having to provide the initiative, work or funding for what they need. This attitude is not limited to the poor who have become accustomed to generations of governmental services, ranging from food to housing to educational assistance. It's also evident among those who play the state lottery in the expectation that they will hit their lucky number and never again have to expend any energy.
You will also see this attitude among businesses that want taxpayer-financed incentives for opening a factory or a store or hiring a work force to operate that enterprise. They don't want to take a financial risk without a guarantee of rewards from state or local government. On a larger scale are the industries that lobby Congress for start-up money to create new products, such as solar energy.
Everybody wants services.