Charity Police

Philanthropic organizations are increasingly demanding that grantees measure impact. It is not the measuring of impact to which I object, it is the way this expectation is unidirectionally communicated and enforced. This paternalistic practice is an abuse of power that emphasizes control and containment over partnership and possibilities.

The MacArthur Fellows Program is an amazing example of trusting philanthropy (and I hope to be one someday!). Grantees are selected according to their contributions and are then trusted to make decisions about the best use of the funds; reports are not required. As a teacher, I take a similar approach with my students in the community or online setting. I expect students to take what we learn in class and to use it to the best of their ability in their context. My hope is to inspire change that can’t be captured in numbers or even words, and to provoke changes that are multiplicative.

With trust and freedom, great things will happen. Let’s share with each other out of love rather than fear.

Community Cooptation

The nonprofit/community benefit/social change sector has coopted much from business organizations, and the pressure to do so is increasing from many foundations and professional associations. In my experience, the business models that are appropriated are outdated and a poor fit for our sector. We are victimizing and marginalizing our community organizations through this practice; we are also limiting our ability to provoke meaningful and sustainable change. Rather than us borrow from business, I think business should listen and learn from us. Not because we demand it, or because we attach contingencies to it, but because there is an opportunity for mutual learning and growth. Perhaps by coming together intentionally we can envision new models of organizations that will truly transform our world.