Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Phil And Thropy

I have said before that a fundamental problem in American life is asking for too little. Nowhere is this more clear than in the case of public interest advocacy organizations who are constantly jumping through hoops to create a "new" program for funders to get excited about.

The right doesn't do this. The right funds general operating expenses of its organizations, its think tanks--it doesn't make its key grassroots players beg and it doesn't make them pretend to be doing something new all the time. It's understood that if an organization is good, its operating expenses need to be met before it can expand.

If you've ever looked at this from the point of view of a funder, it sort of makes sense. You want desperately to make your mark, to see that a good organization gets better. What does it mean to get better? It means it does something new.

What if the nonprofits band together and tell the funders: here's how it's gonna be, you wanna fund us? You fund our operating expenses first. You want us to get bigger and better? Let us stop having to figure out how to make payroll each month and put our resources and staff to program.

Then you'll have a situation where funders might understand this differently. Ah, if I want to improve this excellent organization, I have to make sure the lights stay on then they'll let me fund a new program--it requires a paradigm shift for the advocates. They need to proceed from a position of abundance rather than lack. They need to trust and understand their own value and ask for what they're worth and what they need.

I think they'll get it.

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