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Unleashing innovation

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By Todd Cohen

Philanthropic correctness has hijacked social progress.

With politicians cutting taxes to seduce voters, meeting critical human needs falls to philanthropy.

But bad policy sabotages philanthropy’s good intentions.

Instead of unleashing nonprofit enterprise, foundations are choking it.

Nonprofits need money and know-how to operate and to work together and with government and business to attack social problems at their roots.

Foundations could help, but many cannot hear or see beyond their own ideas.

They talk about capacity, collaboration and diversity, but will not share wealth, knowledge or decision-making.

Instead, nonprofits must beg, and change their spots, for a coveted spot in philanthropy’s big tent.

Nonprofit trade groups could speak up for nonprofits, and push foundations to simplify grantmaking and to pool assets to boost operations, teamwork and social change.

But, hooked on foundation support themselves, trade groups serve as philanthropy’s hawkers, enablers and bouncers.

Philanthropy apes government’s smug practices, dispensing heavy-handed rules and social agendas nonprofits must swallow to get funding.

Foundations betray their promise by trying to force-feed change.

If they invested more in operations, and in equipping and freeing nonprofits to act as society’s research-and-development arm, foundations could cultivate the innovation that is critical to social progress.


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

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