Freeing the market

By Todd Cohen

Charity is falling prey to tyranny.

The productive exchange of charitable supply and demand requires a competitive marketplace that gives equal treatment to nonprofits, foundations, donors and volunteers.

But government tilts the marketplace for donors and foundations.

Donors get big tax breaks, and foundations face little scrutiny and must give away only $5 a year of every $100 they control.

Volunteers and nonprofits also play vital roles, yet volunteers get no tax breaks for the value of their contribution, and enterprising nonprofits face taxes on “unrelated” income.

Nonprofits should be free to compete for donors, volunteers, partners and customers in a fair marketplace.

But with government tipping the scales in their favor, foundations limit nonprofits’ choices.

Foundations operate like private clubs, fund pet causes and force nonprofits wanting help to swallow their philanthropically correct policies.

Fixing our communities depends on freeing civic enterprise from foundations’ unbridled power.

Charity should push government to right the marketplace, providing even-handed incentives to unleash giving, volunteerism, innovation and collaboration.

And in this election season, nonprofits should demand that candidates explain exactly how they would strengthen our civic sector so it can better address our most critical social problems.

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

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