Policy takes back seat

By Todd Cohen

Charity is hurting itself by failing to try to fix the flawed public policies that underlie the immediate problems charities exist to address.

That failing is understandable: In a world of limited resources, charity has come to believe it can do only so much.

But true change depends on doing a lot more.

From health, human services and economic development to education, arts and the environment, progress is strangled by a lack of vision and courage.

Politicians bow to corporate influence. Corporations muzzle their righteous talk about social responsibility for fear of losing legislative favors. And charities in dire need of support do the bidding of self-absorbed foundations and donors.

Consider the push this year to persuade North Carolina lawmakers to increase to $50 million from $3 million the funds they give to the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund.

A diverse coalition of nonprofits, foundations and industry groups worked hard to enlist support for the proposal, which would have created jobs, tax revenue and affordable housing.

But too many nonprofits, foundations and corporations kept quiet.

Change takes work. To make it happen, funders need to speak up and give charities the funds, training and push they need to speak up.

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

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