Rethink the way we run charities: A useful reading list

Jul 7, 2014 /

Dan Pallotta has an unconventional view of nonprofits: To innovate and really make an impact, he thinks they should function with business-minded acumen. Says Pallotta (TED Talk: The way we think about charity is dead wrong), “You want to make $50 million selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But if you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, you’re considered a parasite yourself.” Bringing principles of the corporate world into the nonprofit sector can be a tough sell. Here, eight articles Pallotta recommends that give more insight into the whys and hows of putting a value on effective philanthropy.

1. “When Good Is Not Good Enough”
Bill Shore, et al.
Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2013

“Leaders of two of the most successful nonprofit organizations argue that the sector needs to shift its attention from modest goals that provide short-term relief to bold goals that, while harder to achieve, provide long-term solutions by tackling the root of social problems.”

2. “All Entrepreneurship Is Social”
Carl Schramm
Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2010

“A great piece on the dangers of overlooking the contributions that business entrepreneurs make to society.”

3. “Philanthropic Equity”
George Overholser and Sean Stannard-Stockton
Tactical Philanthropy, January 21, 2009

“A great summary of the difference between buying something in social change and building something, and on changes to the way we think about accounting that could capitalize and catalyze the growth of our best organizations.”

4. “Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?”
Dan Pallotta
Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2012

“A written summary of the ideas in my TED Talk.”

5. “You Should Be Able to Get Rich in Charity”
Dan Pallotta
Harvard Business Review, September 28, 2011

“We have to stop treating money as a sin in social change work. If more value will be produced with more financial incentive, then we should continue to provide financial incentive up to the point where it no longer produces value. Whether or not a person is getting wealthy is immaterial. All that matters is whether the organization is getting good value for that money.”

6. “Multiplication Philanthropy”
Dan Pallotta
Harvard Business Review, February 17, 2012

“We have a deficient conception of leverage. The real leverage in philanthropy doesn’t stop with finding the most impactful organization. The real leverage is in funding the growth of the most impactful organization.”

7. “An Apollo Program for American Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector”
Dan Pallotta
Harvard Business Review, September 5, 2012

“The conventional wisdom has been that the public wants charities with low salaries and low overhead, so, like it or not, that’s the reality within which we have to live and operate. But the public once wanted slavery and women to be without the right to vote. What if we changed what the public wants? Here’s a blueprint for doing just that.”

8. “Business Can’t Solve the World’s Problems — But Capitalism Can”
Dan Pallotta
Harvard Business Review, January 15, 2013

“If we would liberate the humanitarian sector to use the tools of capitalism, it could compete with the for-profit sector for mind and market share. It could really grow, and it could start to solve some of our most entrenched problems. Fight capitalism with capitalism.”

[ted id=1688]

Featured image: iStock.