Social Work Helper

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The Uncharitable World of Policy: Dan Pallotta TED

Lydia Long 2013/05/07

By Lydia Long, Staff Writer

One of the biggest threats that all nonprofits face is the injustice and discrimination from our own government. Our current Congress wants nonprofits to survive without government spending at the same time it is creating policies that increases dependency on the services nonprofits provide. If the government does not want to fund these services, then they must allow these facilities to find innovative ways to fund themselves.  Who or what will pay for these much needed services? Nonprofits are struggling to survive. However, if there were some sort of revenue, benefit to donate to these nonprofits, and a way to market the valuable work they do, they could greatly expand the number of people who are helped.

According to activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta, (Pallotta, 2008) everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, and this bleeds into the policy arena as well.  This creates misconceptions and injustice that targets vulnerable populations. Dan claims there are a few specific ways that nonprofits are discriminated against in the economic world. First through compensation, by providing more opportunities for incentives to other business instead of finding ways to incentivize people to produce more in the service population.   Secondly, through advertising and marketing, because investors don’t like to see their donations spent on advertising in the non-profit sector. Dan states, “You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.” (Dan Pallotta, 2008)

Most nonprofits must get their advertising donated, and this forces them to work at a capacity much lower than their other business counterparts. Thirdly through not allowing nonprofits to try innovative ideas because they are risky. In other profit business, taking risks is almost necessary and a loss is expected. However in the nonprofit sector these sort of business risks are not allowed and could even be viewed as failures. Only Dan states when we prohibit failure we also stop innovation. The fourth way is through time limits. For example Dan states, if a nonprofit told investors and donors that for six years no money was going to go to the needy, it was all going to be invested in building their nonprofit they would not be supported.  (Dan Pallotta, 2008)  However that is exactly what Amazon did, and they were supported in this by their investors. Most nonprofits have time limits for success and don’t have the opportunity to grow their nonprofit before they must close doors. And lastly by being been seen as a drain in the community rather than a value. In our society we value independence and vulnerable populations are not seen as worthy, only as unsustainable.

But this idea of individuality is an illusion, we cannot exist without being dependent on several variables. There is so much discrimination for vulnerable populations, it is almost as if it is purposeful and intentional to make it so difficult for the nonprofit sector. (Dan Pallotta, 2008) As long as we have this belief in our society things will not change. It is disappointing that in our society we value things that hurt us or isolate us however helping members in the community that are struggling is unfavorable?

Pallotta, D. (2008). Uncharitable. Lebanon, NH: Tufts University Press.
Photo credit: http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/01/a-new-way-to-judge-nonprofits-dan-pallotta-at-ted2013/

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About Author

Lydia Long

Lydia Long is the Politics Staff Writer for Social Work Helper. Her career goals includes working in social justice, policy, and community outreach/organizing. Lydia has work experience in progressive community engagement serving vulnerable populations in mental health and addiction. Lydia is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at the University of NC-Greensboro and NCA&T University Joint Program. View all posts by Lydia Long →

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