Nonprofit leaders should dare to speak out

To the editor,

I was so relieved to see Teny O. Gross’s opinion about how few people dare speak out in the world of nonprofits for fear of being banished [“Risk-taking a sign of leadership”, 05.04.06].

Truer words were never spoken.

In an environment where everyone touts social change, as leaders in our communities, we are not really encouraged or allowed to reflect on the system that is being created and in which we participate.

Philanthropic organizations blow in the wind about what is the next sexy thing to invest in, and many are disinvesting in favor of “high-level advocacy, evaluation and research,” as Gross says.

Third-party regranters are hired that only politicize grantmaking further in lieu of the philanthropic organizations doing the work of actually getting to know the field of grantees and meeting them where they live in terms of their needs.

Only a precious few will attempt the work the way it really needs to be done.

It seems many funders just want to glorify themselves.

I have worked in cultures of color for almost two decades, and the real conversation in the trenches is as far from the one with the funders as we are from the moon.

There is a real disconnect there, but no one is talking about it, except occasionally anonymously when the evaluation consultants contact the field — and to no avail.

What the heck can be done about this?

Community-based organizations are dying. Grants keep getting smaller and the scramble for them ever more political.

This trend is not making true social change. This frustration only results in seasoned leaders burning out and wanting to leave the field.

— Batia Gottman, consultant, WORD, Philadelphia

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.