Why Can’t We Sell Charities Like We Sell Rock Stars?

| March 28, 2013

Act like a rock star and drop the tin cup

Some time ago I was in a nonprofit seminar and a grant maker from a major corporation was rocking the room with a passionate speech. Her message? Pay your people well. Recruit real talent. Demand respect and sell yourselves with pride.

And she’d welcome it. She’d pay for it. She was tired of seeing grant applications that focused on how little the organization’s overhead was, or how little the Executive Director made. She wanted success and big ideas. It wasn’t that she was being 100% altruistic. It was good business for her employer. They were interested in being linked with huge success. They were interested in rock stars – not threadbare suits and tin cups.

The public is listening to the wrong message – but charities aren’t pushing back

The public dialogue is too narrowly focused. The evaluation of a charity has to be more than checking a 990 for overhead and compensation.  Are we saying so or are we allowing our long-term success to be compromised by short-term ratios? Where are our leaders in the conversation?

Dan Pallotta says this in a cogent and passionate monologue in this TEDTalks video. I don’t think nonprofits are being vocal enough. We have to educate and inform the dialogue or  be ruled by misconceptions and attitudes that will restrict our ability to raise money and think and act in the best way for long-term success. Please take time to watch this video.

Our charitable system evolved from conflicts of conscience

I also like the historical view in this article Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?  in the Wall Street Journal. Nonprofits originated, according to the author, as a result of a conflict of conscience, a penance for capitalistic success. It does seem a recipe for a dysfunctional approach to solving really big complex issues. It so happens to have been penned by the same Dan Pallotta. Go Dan.



Tags: ,

Category: News & Advocacy

Comments are closed.