Making a market

Charity faces tough job making connections that make sense.

By Todd Cohen

[04.28.04] — Charity is up for grabs.

Except for some limp laws and regulations, funders, donors and charities make their own rules, and way, in a freewheeling marketplace.

That marketplace rewards charities that run smart shops and can gear charitable demand to donor supply.

The marketplace also can be cruel to charities, particularly those poorly equipped to survive fierce competition, a tough economy and rising demand for services.

Compounding charities’ challenge is an expected crackdown by federal and state lawmakers and regulators primed to toughen policing of the marketplace.

To make the most productive use of the trillions of inherited dollars expected to flow to charity over the next 50 years, funders, donors and charities must adapt quickly to regulatory and market forces.

All charitable players need to get over their obsession with ego and turf, pool their know-how, figure out what works in how each does business, fix what does not work, and team up with partners who will share the job of strengthening charity.

By shaping up and finding common ground, charity can remake the marketplace to best serve our most urgent social needs.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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