Happy Joe founder James Dalman announced this week that the non-profit organization will be shutting down. Dalman started the organization to help veterans find employment opportunities in WordPress and other web technologies. He plans to continue with a modified version of the Happy Joe mission set up as a for-profit venture.
After operating for the past two years as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, Dalman no longer has the desire to continue raising funds. Happy Joe pulled in $80,000 in 2015 through corporate sponsorships and private donations, but Dalman started 2016 with no funds to carry through.
“The reality is we can’t continue on a zero budget and I can’t continue to work for free,” he said. “While it would be simple to say dedicate more time to asking companies and people for funding, it’s not in my heart to do so anymore. I believe in being self-sufficient and not a burden on others.”
Lack of funding is the primary reason the organization is shutting down, but Dalman also struggled with the perception of non-profits. With organizations like the Wounded Warrior Foundation receiving negative press for excessive spending, Dalman said the growing skepticism of non-profits made his job more challenging.
There’s no doubt that accountability and transparency is critical and Happy Joe has strived to excel in this. But the wrong assumptions about what a non-profit can do and the skepticism and lack of trust also complicates the mission for teams operating in the non-profit space for the future. Battling these challenges keeps us from doing the work that truly matters.
Dalman’s non-profit post-mortem also cites negative stereotypes about veterans, expectations of rewards or kickbacks for donations, and his own leadership as contributing factors to his decision to shut the organization down.
“We will now operate as a for-profit venture and will shift our focus from web tech training to building a talent marketplace where veterans can get freelance work and be mentored in growing a business,” Dalman said.
The new for-profit venture will drop some of the programs that Happy Joe offered previously but will continue to assist veterans in seeking employment and developing entrepreneurial skills.