Opinion/Philanthropy Journal – Charities fail to lead

By Todd Cohen

Philanthropic correctness has hurt North Carolina.

By spurring Blue Cross to abort its for-profit plans, a handful of nonprofit leaders helped cost the state the big health foundation the conversion would have created.

When Blue Cross first signaled it wanted to convert, a broad coalition of nonprofit leaders pushed lawmakers to safeguard the conversion process.

Thanks to those leaders, lawmakers wrote a law to try to keep Blue Cross from hurting North Carolinians, and to insulate the new foundation from politics.

Flush with victory, a few of those leaders escalated their lobbying into a holy war that left no winners.

They claimed that only nonprofit status could keep Blue Cross from hurting customers, health-care providers and the new foundation.

Yet they really seemed to fear that, if it improved service and rates, and spawned a big charity, Blue Cross might show the promise of a diverse market mixing commerce and philanthropy.

And nonprofit foes of Blue Cross did not act alone.

Instead of assessing and speaking out about conversion and the role the new foundation could play, charitable leaders in our state kept quiet.

Progress does not flow from bowing blindly to philanthropic correctness, but from working with people whose ideas differ to find ways to attack problems faced in common.

That is the promise of diversity, and the challenge for leaders.

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