Pallotta: The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong

March 25, 2013 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

In doing a bit of research for this year’s annual conference (November 12 – 14), I came across a TED talk by Dan Pallotta, AIDS Ride founder and author of Charity Case. It was my introduction to the activist and fundraiser, and what an interesting introduction it was.
ImageDuring his talk, which posted earlier this month and so far has over 1 million views, Pallotta describes “the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities.” The TED talk page summary says this about his talk:

“Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.”

One particular statement from his talk resonated with me: “The next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams.” Perhaps this is because I had just finished reviewing responses from our annual Grantmaking Outlook report, where I was surprised to see that 84% of the respondents said they would provide operating support this year to grantees. That’s a big jump from last year’s figure, when only two-thirds said they’d give this kind of support. It seems to me that operating support is the kind of funding that can allow nonprofits to scale their dreams.

He also says, “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world.” I’m not sure what generation he’s referencing, but I’d like to see myself as part of many generations with this epitaph. How about you?

Let’s talk philanthropy.

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Entry filed under: Commentaries, Philanthropy Ohio News.

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