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Charity needs to break free

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By Todd Cohen

The charitable marketplace should be a wellspring of innovation and social change.

Market rules and policing that were fair and tough would spur funders, donors and charities to take greater risks and work more closely together to address urgent social problems.

Instead, the charitable-industrial complex breeds mediocrity, frustration and failure.

Smitten with its own wealth and power, and growing ever fatter, lazier and more smug because of toothless rules and spineless regulators, organized philanthropy keeps charities in lockstep with its tired, near-sighted and in-bred way of doing business.

Faced with moves in Congress to toughen charitable regulation and policing, charities should be pushing to free the marketplace from organized philanthropy’s ham-fisted grip.

Instead, chained to their grant support, charities muzzle themselves and will not fight for market reform.

Sadly, by failing to change, foundations doom the lofty causes they claim to care about.

Two new reports by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, for example, suggest that foundations could be far more effective by giving more to strengthen charities’ operations, and by investing more of their assets in causes in sync with their mission.

If only they could see beyond their own bloated reflection, foundations could make a big difference.


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

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