All together now

By Todd Cohen

[05.19.04] – Tackling big social ills takes vision and a willingness to move beyond turf, strutting and name-calling.

Charities tout their collaboration, but they can be quick to tar anyone not sharing their ideas, even potential partners.

The growing health crisis that puts millions of North Carolinians at risk is a painful reminder that charities only hurt their cause when they get up on their high horse, pick enemies and label them evil.

Nearly a year ago, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina scrubbed plans to become a for-profit business, plans that would have created a charitable health foundation with assets that could have totaled $1 billion or more.

Blue Cross scrapped its plans in the face of opposition from Insurance Commissioner Jim Long and a handful of nonprofit leaders and consumer advocates.

Instead of working with Blue Cross to address their concerns, particularly about its huge profits, opponents of the conversion flexed their muscles, and other charities and politicians kept quiet.

Strutting is easy. What is tough is learning to work with diverse groups to tap and share resources needed to address critical problems.

Change requires vision, leadership and teamwork, qualities sorely lacking among charitable and political leaders in our state.

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

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