Panel on nonprofits still does not get it

By Todd Cohen

Charity is hurting because some charities and foundations have treated donors’ funds as personal piggybanks and power sources for staff, boards, families and cronies.

Those charities’ and foundations’ abuse and arrogance have sparked probes by lawmakers and regulators, eroded trust among donors and volunteers, and betrayed the aim of laws and rules designed to spur charitable donations and activity.

Yet in its report to Congress urging greater transparency, governance and accountability of charitable organizations, a report based on input from thousands of people at a reported cost of more than $3 million, the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector fails to practice the brutal honesty it preaches.

Nowhere in its report’s more than 100 pages does the panel own up to the fact that charities themselves made the mess they are in.

The apparent culprit, repeatedly cited in the report, is media coverage, as if charitable abuse exists only when exposed.

Its head deep in the sand, the panel totally ignores the shamefully inadequate foundation payout rate, and slithers from a clear-cut confrontation with conflicts of interest and excessive compensation.

In choosing righteous talk over courage and vision, the panel has blown an unprecedented chance to help heal charity’s self-inflicted wounds.


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

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