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Opinion/Philanthropy Journal – Charity can change

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By Todd Cohen

Charities are America’s civic heroes, yet they can act like they have something to hide.

They take on society’s tough jobs, make do with little and find ways to do more with less.

But many charities, already in a rut, dig themselves an even deeper hole when they whine about the hurdles they face, waffle when they make mistakes and posture over the role they play.

As civic heroes, charities should be model citizens in an open society, speaking plainly and directly about the holes in our social fabric and in their own operations, and the repair work that needs to be done.

Instead, smitten with the rightness of their cause and fearing they might seem less than perfect or turn off their backers, some charities mask unpleasant facts in a fog of upbeat spin and philanthropically correct jargon.

In that sanitized lexicon, poverty is low wealth, red ink is a capacity issue, and shrinking donations are symptoms of social and economic forces beyond the control of charities, representing an opportunity to take it to the next level.

Charities need to shed the idea, which has taken on the aura of gospel, that they are entitled to support because their cause is just.

Charities have to earn their keep and make their own luck.

To thrive in a tough, competitive and often hostile marketplace, charities need to lose their righteous attitude, pull their head out of the sand and clean up their own house.

In a world riddled with pain and deception, social change depends on charities willing to retool their operations and outlook, look beyond the usual suspects for support, take risks and tell their story simply, directly and openly.

Change depends on embracing change and making it happen.

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