Friday, November 1, 2013
The theme of the recent LeadingAge national meeting was "Expanding the Possibilities." Consistent with that theme, at one of the general sessions, the speaker was Dan Pallotta, author of two books:
Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential (Tufts Univ. Press 2008)
Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World (Jossey-Bass Press 2012)
The presentation was both interesting and provocative, using Pallotta's experience in nonprofit fundraising and advocacy, to frame an argument that the nonprofit sector is functionally constrained by outmoded policies, thus inappropriately limiting effectiveness. His talk was organized around five points: Compensation, Advertising and Marketing, New Revenues, Time, and Risk.
Nonprofits are, of course, a huge segment of the long-term care, senior living and aging services industries. In fact, after teaching elder law and running an elder protection clinic, a few years ago I added a course on Nonprofit Organizations Law to my Penn State Law teaching package because of my growing appreciation for the importance of nonprofits.
Pallotta made the case that in analyzing the success of any nonprofit, it is wrong to focus narrowly on what percentage of a donation goes to services versus overhead. As he asks, what makes us think "overhead" is not an integral part of the cause? He urged a role for "charity defense councils" to counteract the image of nonprofits as mere handmaidens to a larger for-profit industry. He rejected an image that ties nonprofits to low wages or volunteer-only staffing.
Good food for thought, yes?