redux plus
October 13, 2013

attending the dan pallotta talk was like hearing his TED talk live with additional icing on the cake in the form of a lot more statistics. that’s how it felt. it was good to review the points he makes. they still make sense. he’s a very professional speaker, but he seemed weary. and he was peddling his books, uncharitable and the new charity case.

i was reminded of the the sobering facts that charity is a measly 2% of the GDP (gross domestic product) and of that 2% only 20% of it goes to health and human services. this seems a gross failing of our priorities and values as a people and a country. the question is why?

pallotta’s answer is to let philanthropy use the methods and tactics that make capitalism successful, to shift old ways of thinking about non-profits such as, overhead steals from the cause ¬†and the moral superiority of using less to fundraise to capitalist thinking such as, incentivizing success and using marketing and advertising to increase the market demand for more philanthropy.

i don’t know if this, “using what works” from capitalism is the right fix. but i do know that the most important statement pallotta made was this, when you don’t permit failure you kill innovation. its time we permit ourselves as donors and givers and our non-profits to try new ways of achieving philanthropy with permission not to get it right all the time.

morality vs. frugality
August 27, 2013

In his TED talk, dan pollotta makes a distinction in philanthropy between frugality and morality. the bottom line: they aren’t equal. pallotta says too often donors want to see the organizations they give to behaving in fiscally frugal ways. the reasoning goes that the less a non-profit spends on everything other than direct service the better (read more trustworthy, honest, high minded) the organization. in other words many donors do equate frugality with morality.

do you?

i can honestly say i was influenced by my upbringing to believe in general frugality is a superior trait and one to aspire to. such a world view has definitely affected my perspectives and actions. i admit to having made moral judgments about others based in large part on their spending habits. and i’ve been hypocritical enough not to count some very lavish spenders I know as less moral.

but less isn’t always more. the true bottom line for non-profits is impact. and by chaining donations to both organizations and individuals to the measure of their frugality is often short sighted.

maybe you think someone who needs financial assistance shouldn’t be spending money on an iphone or a taxi. maybe that’s because you think you know better than they do about being smart with your money. maybe that means you feel superior or judgmental or that you only want to give to people who subscribe to your world view.

sure you have that right. but take a moment to think about how your assumptions limit you. can you recall a time your actions were judged by someone who didn’t have all the information and criticized your values? what would it be like to give money to someone for whom frugality wasn’t a strong value?