Thursday, May 23, 2024

About San Francisco's Nonprofits

A Fireside Chat: “Ending Homelessness Means Ending Poverty” — Hamilton  Families

San Francisco has seen its share of scandals involving nonprofits and tax exempt organizations, especially with regard to its housing shortages.  Those scandals have triggered a healthy debate recently regarding whether San Francisco nonprofits have too much power.  Here is some of the debate with a link to a contrary position embedded in the first sentence:

A recent Examiner op-ed would have us believe that The City’s nonprofit human-services sector is a politically powerful, unaccountable behemoth with a self-interest in perpetuating poverty to feather its own nest. Solving complex problems such as public safety, homelessness and behavioral-health disorders requires an innovative array of short- and long-term programs. With their deep community roots and ability to respond quickly to changing needs, nonprofits are uniquely suited to provide these services.

While most of our sector adheres to the highest ethical standards, we all suffer from the transgressions of a few bad actors. While the media spotlight every accusation, nonprofits’ daily hard work and success are never front-page news. We endorse accountability measures that are meaningful, consistent, efficient and sensible. Community-based organizations must ensure integrity within their organizations. Cost-effective accountability mechanisms are necessary components.

But let’s not confuse accountability with micromanagement. Excessive compliance measures take time and money away from service provision. A pragmatic approach balances costs and risks while emphasizing training and technical assistance to improve service delivery.

The op-ed also asserts that the nonprofit sector’s political power parallels that of the military-industrial complex. Federal law prohibits nonprofits from endorsing or donating to candidates and imposes lobbying limits. Meanwhile, business, tech and real-estate interests maintain vast resources, lobbyists and public relations teams to influence City Hall and the voting public.

darryll k. jones

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