A Copernican shift in thinking about charity–Dan Pollotta

In the public’s eye, high administration/overhead, is the Great Satan of fundraising. Anybody in development for any length of time feels it, has chewed her fingernails over it.

If you’re fundraising, whatever the cause, and there are very few bad causes, you will soon be asked, “How much of my dollar is going to the need?” And lurking behind the question you sense the donor holding your organization in the balance: you tense…will the percentage be low enough to acquire the gift?

No question, good stewardship of a giver’s money is sacrosanct. This is not the argument. But good stewardship does not automatically equal a low overhead. In fact the reverse could very well be true. The Puritan perception of keeping a charity frugal at all costs, starves innovation, blinkers talent and keeps our social problems festering. On this, the general public needs education.

Consider these words of Dan Pallotta:

“The next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams.”

“Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world.”

“Philanthropy is the market for love. It is the market for all those people for whom there is no other market coming.”

Volunteering and working with homeless people for over a quarter century, and trying to raise money for the care of Edmonton’s poor for the past 12 years…well, I wish I would have seen this TedTalk years ago. Fortunately we work with a great organization that has long known the truth of what this video shows.


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