Crying wolf

To the editor,

In our town, local authorities are gearing up to set up meetings to discuss the overlap and conflicts among nonprofits in the area, especially in the economic development arena.

The symptoms are what one might expect — too many open, chattering, critical and plaintive mouths for too few cookie-dollars available.

One of the root causes is that the peoples’ representatives, motivated by unhappy voters in an overly-negative election season, are tired of hearing of resource shortfalls to this or that worthy cause, without proof of the merit of the supposed benefits.

Why, for example, is a women’s business information center valuable, if the SBA Business Information Center, which funds assistance to everyone, is in danger of closing?

Why should there be five or six independently-funded agencies, with their staffs, when all those resources could go to helping the whole economy from one place, thus raising all boats even further?

Who says, other than the nonprofit itself, where the best destination for donations is?

And so the criticisms flow. Reasons for this newly-emergent perspective include the license with which we nonprofits rail forth on the obvious unfairness of things, the glaring injustices we intend to right, the “proven” multitudes of wrongs about us, even the villainy of those who oppose us, or make us justify their money for our effort.

I frankly cannot blame the local authorities for thinking we call “wolf” too often. I work in a nonprofit where businesses, even nonprofits, come to get operating funds.

Experience shows me that “normal” businesses expect to show us facts about their operations before getting aid. Nonprofits tend to expect us to give it to them because it’s the “right” thing to do and, since we’re all part of the same fraternity, because they’re nonprofits just like us.

I saw a lot of that kind of thinking in your editorial [“Foundation monopoly”, Philanthropy Journal, 10.06.04.], which raises questions with an emotional base, or at least without documentation.

My response: Let’s have some facts to support the rhetoric, built into the articles. Otherwise, for example, it’s the foundations’ words against yours and, since they have the money, I’ll believe them.

J.R. Sloan, Spokane, Wash.

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