Sunday, June 14, 2009

Free the Nonprofits

I come to a lot of new information and ideas late. And so it is with Dan Pallotta, the author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, a book that takes a hard look at how society constrains the work of nonprofits and how the people who work and volunteer for nonprofits constrain themselves.

Pallotta's got an interesting story of his own -- I'll leave you to discover it -- that has undoubtedly refined his perspective. In any case, I find it refreshing, particularly now.

He's also the author of the blog Free the Nonprofits and he's a keynote speaker at the October 2009 Arts Council of Indianapolis' Next Audiences Summit.

Here's an excerpt from his May 11th blog post entitled Re-Thinking Charity:
We have two rulebooks — one for charity, one for the rest of the economic world.

We let the for-profit sector pay competitive wages based on value, but have a visceral reaction to anyone making a great deal of money in charity. We let people make a fortune doing any number of things that will harm the poor, but want to crucify anyone who wants to make money helping them. This sends the top talent coming out of the nation's best business schools directly into the for-profit sector and gives our youth mutually exclusive choices between doing well and doing good. It is not sustainable, let alone scalable.

We let Coca-Cola pummel us with advertising, but donors don't want important causes "wasting" money on paid advertising. So the voices of our great causes are muted. Consumer products get lopsided access to our attention, 24 hours a day. Charitable giving has remained constant at about 2% of GDP ever since we've measured it. Charity isn't gaining market share. How can it if it isn't permitted to market?

Another choice morsel from his June 1st post Are MBAs Good Fits for Nonprofits?:

It is time we made concessions of a different sort — first, that the presence of personal economic aspiration does not mean a person has no love in their hearts; second, that we don't know what great contributions could be made to this world by allowing people who have such aspirations to pursue them while they simultaneously pursue the work of social transformation; and last, that before we go unilaterally building litmus tests for moral fitness, we ought to ask those we are trying to assist who they think fits, and what concessions they are prepared to make, as they look into the voids of extreme poverty, breast cancer, AIDS, and the other things.

His voice is an important one to add to the mix.

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