dan pallotta blog

Friday’s Excerpt from #UncharitableBook

"Moreover, there is an unintentional cruelty at work in the demand for charities to be more effective. It is a bit of the blood-from-a-stone syndrome. How can charities become more effective overall if we won’t let them use the tools everyone else in the economic world uses as the fundamental basis for effectiveness? It is no blessing to throw a charity a million dollars to achieve a result and then tell it that it must apply the same set of seventeenth-century rules that have heretofore left it incapable of achieving the result in the first place. The demand for a crop won’t produce anything if you deny a man a plow. It doesn’t matter if we change what we’re measuring. If we don’t change the rules, charities will never be able to measure up."

"Uncharitable," page 11

Tuesday’s Excerpt from #UncharitableBook

Funny to read this paragraph five years later. There is such a movement now!:

"No one in authority is suggesting that we give the nonprofit sector the far-reaching freedom we really give to business. There is no new movement demanding that the nonprofit sector place efficiency a dis- tant second to a great vision. It is simply not a discussion that is happening. It is sacrilegious to question the importance of efficiency."

"Uncharitable," Page 10

Monday’s Quick Excerpt from #UncharitableBook

"When charities are told to act more like businesses they are, by and large, being told nothing more than to be more efficient, as if efficiency were a substitute for vision. The term is used in the narrowest sense— read: less money spent on overhead, with no understanding of what “overhead” really is and what it really isn’t. Whoever believes that this and this alone is what it means to act like a business never ran a successful one. Great businesses grow on great vision. Efficiency is a secondary matter. How the business people who sit on the boards of our charities  have allowed an obsession with efficiency to become conflated with what it means to act like business is one of the great mysteries of mod- ern economic history."

"Uncharitable," page 10

Thursdays Hit from #UncharitableBook

"As if this were not enough, the cultural pretense of the past decade is that capitalism in charity is encouraged. One of the cruelest and most dangerously disingenuous messages being preached to the nonprofit sector today is that it should act more like business—cruel because we don’t allow it to, and dangerous because it creates the illusion that we do, preempting any initiatives for change under the guise of its already being under way."

"Uncharitable," page 9

Tuesday’s Hit from #UncharitableBook

"It is a further irony that we prohibit charity from using the tools of capitalism to rectify the very disparities some would claim capitalism creates. We allow people to make huge profits doing any number of things that harm the poor, but prohibit anyone from making a profit doing anything that will help them. Want to make a million selling violent video games to kids? Go for it. Want to make a million funding the cure for childhood leukemia? You are a parasite. The illogic is breathtaking. The ramification is even more so: if free-market ideology could rectify the disparities some claim are created by free-market practices, isn’t the nonprofit ideology that obstructs it the problem in the first place?"

"Uncharitable," page 9

Monday’s Hit from #UncharitableBook

"Ironically, by denying charity the tools of capitalism while allowing the for-profit sector to feast on them, we place charity at a severe disadvantage to the for-profit sector, on every front and at every level. The hands of charity are tied, while the for-profit sector scoops every penny off the economic table. Charity is segregated from the rest of the economic world. And this apartheid is the result of its own ideology. It is in the name of charity that capitalism is banished. Indeed, charity could not be undermined with more homage paid to charity. But the only beneficiary of this charity is the for-profit sector. The poor are left to take some solace in the fact that charity observed all the discrimination with great frugality.”

From “Uncharitable,” page 9 

Friday’s Hit from #UncharitableBook

"An ambitious reporter puts a sentimental photo of a child with leukemia in the newspaper and asks, “How can you be so cruel as to want to earn a profit from his situation?” I put up the photos of a million others like him and ask, How can you be so shortsighted as to deny me and a thousand others the monetary incentive it would take to devote our life’s work to helping these children? You have just robbed them of our talents. What if your moral compass is wrong?"

From “Uncharitable,” page 8

Thursday’s Hit from #UncharitableBook

"We learn that someone has made a great deal of money in some char- itable endeavor. We are taught to feel morally outraged, regardless of how much benefit the person has achieved. We learn that some charitable director’s salary is modest. We are taught that this is good, regardless of the fact that she may be making little progress—regardless of the fact that someone who commanded a salary three times higher could make ten times the difference. What an inferior satisfaction is the good feeling we get from a modest executive salary compared to the feeling we would have if we ended hunger on this earth. Gold stars over church bells. We have settled for scraps."

From “Uncharitable,” Page 8

Wednesday’s Hit from #UncharitableBook

"Our charity is conducted within a context that measures morality by loyalty to the religion—loyalty to the means. It is not conducted within  a context of what will produce the best end result and what will not. It is not conducted within the ultimately moral context. Predictably, then, we are taught to feel good or bad on the basis of things that don’t make an impact or that unexpectedly make a negative impact, like modest executive salaries, donated equipment, donated advertising, low spending on administration and “overhead,” instead of on the basis of the real moral questions, like whether hunger is being ended or cancer is being cured. We have been taught to judge morality by tactics without regard for the morality of the outcomes."

From “Uncharitable,” Page 7


Why? Tuesday’s Hit from “Uncharitable”

"Why are we so success- ful at making sneakers, Ipods, entertainment, and countless other dis- cretionary products, and at selling them too? Why does the for-profit sector consistently attract those in the upper percentiles of the world’s best business schools? Why does the for-profit sector attract all of the investment capital? How does it monopolize the world’s advertising? Why do businesses grow to be huge while charities, particularly those working on behalf of the world’s most needy citizens, remain quaint and small? As of 2004, about 72 percent of America’s nonprofits had annual revenues less than half a million dollars. And while the non- profit sector may account for about 5.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, by at least one account as of 2004, spending for “public and societal benefit” amounted to only 5.5 percent of that, or just 0.39 per- cent of America’s gross domestic product. Spending on “human services” amounted to 13.6 percent of the total nonprofit sector account, or just 0.71 percent of America’s GDP. Why do the organizations dedicated to our greatest needs have the fewest resources?”

From Page 5