August 03, 2009
Is the Independent Sector Any Better at Saving the World than Government? Book Review
Last week's Wall Street Journal had an interesting op-ed piece reviewing Steven Goldberg's new book, "Billions in Drops in Millions of Buckets." The book makes the assertion, essentially, that the nonprofit sector is just as inefficient as government (if not more) in solving social problems precisely because of the lack of sector "government:"
But what about America’s nonprofit sector—organizations that concentrate their efforts on exactly such problems, with money from charities, trusts and personal philanthropies? They too spend enormous sums. Is their record any better? Not really, says Steven H. Goldberg in “Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets.” We should not, he cautions, blame the American character for this failure: There is plenty of compassion and generosity to go around. Nor is bad thinking at fault: There are plenty of bright ideas and innovative programs. No, it is the whole structure of giving that condemns even the best efforts: We collect and spend our charitable dollars in a haphazard and fragmented way, he argues, diluting whatever problem-solving force they may have.
The reviewer, William A. Schambra, takes issue with the book's essential points. My reaction was based more on the irony of the assertion, to wit: "government is inefficient because it is too regimented and nonprofit is inefficient because it is insufficiently regimented.
February 23, 2009
NGOs and Human Rights
This essay, a revised version of which will appear in the Research Handbook on Human Rights (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2009), attempts to systematize NGO activity relating to human rights. It first describes why human rights supplies fertile ground for the study of non-governmental organizations. As human rights obligations cannot be explained in terms of reciprocal state interest, non-state actors are a probable causal agent in the entrenchment of human rights regimes. The chapter confronts NGOs as agents of material power. The chapter then describes four primary pathways for the exercise of NGO power: through and against states, international organizations, corporations, and each other. Only by situating NGO power relative to state and non-state entities does the breadth and novelty of NGO participation in today's global decision-making come into full relief. Given the fact of that broad power, the chapter concludes by addressing the question of NGO accountability, suggesting that institutionalization of NGO power holds the most promise for appropriately constraining its exercise.
March 21, 2008
Administration of Charitable Trusts in Florida
Alex Espenkotter and Jennifer Facarazzo published Administration of Trusts in Florida: Charitable Trusts (Ch. 16). Here is the introduction:
Charitable trusts are excellent vehicles for persons with philanthropic intentions to effectively give money to their favorite charitable causes while obtaining valuable tax benefits. Not to be overlooked, however, is the need for proper implementation and administration of these entities. “[F]or the estate planning attorney, [trustee,] and financial planner, a thorough study of the issues surrounding charitable... trusts is an imperative to their successful utilization.” Callister, Charitable Remainder Trusts: An Overview, 51 Tax Law. 549, 569 (1998). This chapter addresses various aspects of charitable trust formation and administration.
Initially, the discussion focuses on the numerous specific federal requirements and restrictions that must be followed and adhered to for proper administration of charitable trusts. The various types of charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts are discussed in detail. Next, the chapter discusses the payment of annuity and unitrust amounts under various charitable trust arrangements. Thereafter, the availability of the charitable deduction and its computation is covered. Following that is a discussion of the income tax consequences associated with various charitable trusts. The focus then shifts to application of the private foundation rules to charitable trusts. The chapter concludes by addressing the duties and powers of trustees and the compensation for trustees and attorneys of charitable trusts. These latter two subjects are also discussed in depth in Chapters 2 and 13, respectively, of this manual. For a discussion of the modification of charitable trusts, see §8.16 of this manual.
For the entire chapter, see Administration of Trusts in Florida: Charitable Trusts (Ch. 16) (available at the Florida Bar website CLE section).
March 18, 2008
Six Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations
On March 14, 2008, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article about a new book - "Forces of Good" by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant - on the six best practices for nonprofit organizations. Here is an excerpt from the text of the article:
• Advocate and serve. Crutchfield and Grant say the best in the world of nonprofits bridge the divide between service and advocacy. An example is the expansion of a North Carolina agency call Self-Help. It started as an agency assisting the needy in building houses and grew to become a powerful advocate for predatory-lending policy reforms across the country.
• Making markets work. Nonprofits succeed when they embrace an entrepreneurial spirit. Often disavowed by nonprofits, Environmental Defense partnered with fast-food giant McDonalds. The result was a dramatic reduction of the company's solid wastes by encouraging the switch to environmentally friendly materials.
• Inspire evangelism. This is done when volunteers see their role beyond fundraising and advice to that of missionaries helping sustain the group's mission. Habitat for Humanity exemplifies this through its meteoric rise from local Georgia roots to a global organization with a $1 billion budget that has successfully mobilized the public worldwide.
• Nurture nonprofit networks. Collaboration is not a common practice among nonprofits and yet the authors are emphatic that the best nonprofits thrive when they share their wealth, expertise and talents with their peers. The Exploratorium in San Francisco is cited for its collaborative success from its informal network.
• Master the art of adaptation. Demonstrating the willingness to make drastic changes to affect the overall goals of an organization is key to nonprofit success. Share Our Strength switched from direct mail to special events for fundraising, yielding extraordinary results for the organization.
• Share leadership. Recognized as one of the attributes that is paramount to becoming a force for good, sharing leadership is more about developing others and a team orientation within the organization and even the board.
For the entire article, see "Finally, the 'Good to Great Book' for non-profits" in the March 14, 2008, issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
December 10, 2007
Sidney Watson Publishes Review of Two Books on Medicaid and "Charity" Care in America
In December 2007, Professor Sidney Watson (St. Louis) published a law review article that contains reviews of two recently published books - Jonathan Engel's Poor People's Medicine: Medicaid and American Charity Care Since 1965 (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2006) and Ronald J. Angel's Poor Families in America's Health Care Crisis (New York, NY: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006). Here is the introductory paragraph of the article:
Two new books examine Medicaid--one from a historical perspective and the other through a socioanthropological lens. Poor People's Medicine offers the view from the top: a history of Medicaid and charity care that focuses primarily on national policy developments. Poor Families in America's Health Care Crisis offers the view from the bottom: ethnographic interviews of poor families who discuss Medicaid and charity care from their vantage point at the bottom of the economy. Both books acknowledge Medicaid's many successes in improving access to medical care and the health status of America's poor, yet each reveals how America's deep and long-standing ambivalence toward the poor has produced a deeply flawed Medicaid program.
To see the full article, go to Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law at 32 J. Health Pol. Pol'y & L. 1053.