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Foundation Elites At Work: We Risk Losing Touch With Average Americans

Professionalization has brought its benefits to charities but it has also increased the distance between nonprofit leaders and the people they aim to help. Nicole Wallace documented the presence of creeping elitism in her article “Elites at Work” published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (March 7, 2017). She interviewed nonprofit leaders who confessed that they share more in common with their wealthy donors than with the people they serve.  Such elitism seems to be under a microscope around the world as evidenced by the rise of populists like President Donald Trump and Candidate Bernie Sanders in the recent Presidential election.  […]

The Federal End Run Targeting Philanthropy

This past September, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service pulled an end run on the philanthropy sector by quietly proposing that charities file a new “information return” to substantiate contributions. Naturally, as all such test missiles go, the new return would be voluntary, not mandatory and only apply to gifts of $250 or more. But here is the wolf hiding under sheepskin. The IRS would be provided the name, address and social security number of each donor. The IRS says that the new form actually helps charities by providing an alternate way to confirm gifts […]

Curbing Our Enthusiasim

I am a pack rat. I save interesting articles. I was catching up on my reading and came across a review in The Economist (May 22, 2010) of a new book written by Oren Harman titled “The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness” in which the scientific explanation for altruism is discussed. Why should people be kind to strangers? It seems that George Price, an American economist, studied the question and developed a mathematical formula (now known in economics as the “Price Equation”) describing how characteristics of altruism can prove disadvantageous to the […]

Grassroots Advocacy Is Hard Work But Clearly Effective

Dr. Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University won the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics for her research into the role of voluntary associations in solving a wide range of public challenges. Typically, society manages its “public assets” (i.e. fish in the ocean, lumber in public forests, etc.) in one of two ways in order to avoid uncontrolled consumption. First, society treats the public asset like a private asset and submits its consumption to market forces. A good example is offshore oil leases in which potential users competitively bid to lease the “land” and extract oil. Second, society can manage public assets […]

When Funders Should Feel Guilty About A Bankrupt Nonprofit

Last year, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) issued a new report by Nancy Burd titled “On The Money” the premise of which (in my view) was to shame donors into recognizing their culpability for the demise of what would otherwise be worthwhile nonprofits. Perhaps GEO now expects to see donor flagellation on a massive scale. But, Hold the whips! The report protests that there are just too many nonprofits and too few dollars. So, what’s new? Every day, nonprofits fold their cards and quit the game and now they’re doing it in record numbers as the economy crawls back from […]

Great Ossification!

Darwin didn’t discover private foundations. If, instead of exploring the Galapagos Islands in the Beagle, he had landed amidst a community populated entirely by private foundations, he would most certainly not have concluded that the survival of a species depends on the speed, cunning, and determination of its strongest members. Rather, he might have observed that the members rarely adapt to external conditions and we may never have understood anything about the survival of a species except for our small distorted slice of perpetuity. Even the rare mortality was most frequently the result of self-inflicted “sunset” provisions. Some observers of […]

Dedicated To

This website is dedicated to those who give of themselves and their treasure for the benefit of others, asking nothing in return. Very often, philanthropists are misunderstood by the public and even the recipients of their donations.  Philanthropists are occasionally motivated to receive the recognition that goes with a gift. Sometimes they are motivated because they expect something in return. But, in my experience, they are most frequently motivated out of their love for others and their attempt to be helpful. That help is sometimes misguided in the details but like all of us, philanthropists live a learn too. I […]