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June 13, 2012


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Melanie Audette

Let's step back a moment and realize that there is a tremendous gap between what foundations achieve and what is reported in the news. We have a serious issue with lack of reporting on the tremendous things that those working in philanthropy DO accomplish.


What you say is true. Working in partnership with grantees and others, foundations accomplish a great many things we never hear about. Despite my criticism of the sector, I think it would be a great shame if foundations and other not-for-profits lost their (largely) tax-exempt status because they were not perceived to be producing enough value for the communities they serve. On the other hand, I've been closely following the work of foundations for over twenty years, and if they had managed to collaborate in some city, say, to reduce that city's racial disparities to zero, I would have heard of it. The sector would have hired troubadours to travel throughout the world and spread the news. The Council on Foundations would have produced a major motion picture about this extraordinary coup, starring Morgan Freeman as the visionary foundation CEO.

What keeps our accomplishments modest has less to do with our timid communications or our limited resources (which is what some people argue) and much more to do with our moral failings. These include our desire for bragging rights; our unwillingness to collaborate; our lack of courage, leading to our unwillingness to speak the truth about the root causes of some of our problems; our lack of urgency about society’s problems because these do not affect us directly; our wanting to lord it over grantees … I can go on. It is now 2012 and we are still pretending we don’t understand the causes of intergenerational poverty.


Thankfully, many nonprofits and foundations have continued to resist the ethos of the business world, although that seems to be getting harder to do.

I don't think there's anything very controversial about the idea that "business" is essentially about taking as much as possible, and giving as little as possible in return. Many of the biggest and most successful nonprofits follow this model: They see the world as an arena for competition and expansion, and they push against whatever legal or ethical limitations may stand in their way. As they compete with one another, they produce some "results" that they can use to create the impression that they exist in order to produce those results, and that they are effective at doing so. But beyond the spin, their central motivations are to enrich themselves, their executives, and their cronies at the expense of competitors.

People who make decisions at foundations are better positioned than just about anyone else to resist the expansion of this business ethos into the nonprofit world. They don't need to approve grant applications from organizations that cynically pursue their own aggrandizement under the guise of making the world a better place. But too often they turn a blind eye to all of that. And too often, foundation money is funneled towards organizations that are already well resourced, and produce little of social value. Not coincidentally, the leaders of those financially successful nonprofits are often allies of foundation leaders, and can be counted on to return favors at some point in time.

The systems that determine how wealth is distributed in our society are rigged in favor of those who already have much, and against those who have little. This is just as true in the foundation and nonprofit worlds as it is anywhere else.

Crowing about how foundations and nonprofits need to be more like businesses just takes us farther down the wrong path. We need to starting talking about how businesses should be more like the foundations and nonprofits that genuinely strive for the public good.

solicitor blanchardstown

The systems that determine how wealth is distributed in our society are rigged in favor of those who already have much,

Laguerre Rooks

I agree. And that kind of system is not new to us because that is rampant anywhere in the world. As the saying goes THE RICH BECOMES RICHER AND THE POOR BECOMES POORER and that kind of system is one cause why this reality happened.

Mizelle Comeaux

I concur to that idea too. It's very evident even here in our locality. Because some of the business people are just looking at the benefit of their business to have profit regardless of the customers' benefit.

Sampley Jasper

Philanthropy has gained utmost respect from the public. These philanthropic institutions aren't easy to be built and sustained as it seems. There are also a lot of challenges along the way. But in spite of that, heads up high philanthropists because your missions and visions differ from those of the business industries.

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