Policy matters

By Todd Cohen

Silence makes bad policy, and nonprofits are keeping quiet when they should speak up and take action.

Our communities and marketplace follow written and unwritten rules and goals, known as “policy,” which is only as good as we make it.

Formed to take on jobs no one else wanted, nonprofits have survived through independence and enterprise, fueled by government policies to spur philanthropy.

But government, which could speed civic renewal, is fat and self-absorbed, and politicians lack the vision or spine to change.

And over time, nonprofits have enslaved themselves.

Instead of fighting to shape social progress and policy, nonprofits pander to foundations and donors, and to nonprofit trade organizations that serve as philanthropy’s gatekeepers.

These groups have infected the nonprofit world with philanthropic correctness that stifles innovation.

They spout pieties about “capacity,” “collaboration” and “diversity,” but nurse their own turf and influence, keeping decision-making within their inner circle.

Reviving the independent spirit that spawned them, nonprofits must join hands to change entrenched policies that curb social progress and enterprise, and push philanthropy and government to invest in public-private alliances that will unleash innovation.

Too important to leave to policymakers, nonprofits need to make it their business to change policy.

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

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