Opinion/Todd Cohen on change – Impact counts

By Todd Cohen

While the economy shows modest signs of recovery, charity is on the ropes.

Charities face rising demand for services from people hurt by the economic slump and by government cuts for human services.

Pressure also is growing for charities to better track their operations and spending.

Many charities work hard, communicate clearly and make an honest effort to learn from mistakes and work as partners with funders, government, business and other charities.

But other charities have grown fat and smug.

They pander to donors’ vanity, sugar-coat failure and waste with feel-good jargon, and masquerade as team players while grubbing for turf.

Some charitable agencies and foundations also insulate themselves in a kind of philanthropic priesthood, justifying whatever they choose to do by the rightness of their cause.

But donors are investors, and they expect charities to be lean, nimble, effective and accountable.

The epidemic of scandal and excess in the corporate and charitable worlds has eroded the trust on which charities depend.

To take on society’s huge social ills, charities need to restore trust among donors and government regulators.

Instead of cloaking themselves in their cause, charities need to adapt to the marketplace and focus on their customers and impact.

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