Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How Philanthropy Destroys Charity & More on Volunteer Giving

I have two short items to blog about today. The first is to point you to an article in the Guardian (UK) called "Why business won't save the world," in which the author talks about efforts, such as the Gates Foundation's work in vaccine development, and asks some very good questions about the effect on nonprofit work when a few wealthy individuals drive the nonprofit sector's agenda.

At the heart of the issue is the "philanthro-capitalists' desire for data and control" taking precedent over considerations of need. As the author states:
Investing in new vaccines against malaria is great, but there's no vaccine against poverty, inequality, violence or corruption, areas in which there are no "short-term returns on investment", only a long, hard slog through politics and social change. Does that mean only the easiest causes will be funded?
This is something I've felt and feared myself for some time, as the agencies I work with strive "to reach their numbers" and potentially loose sight of the individuals those numbers represent.

The other short note I wanted to post was to share a comment Monica posted on a previous blog here, "Money Follows Involvement." In that post, I restated my conviction that volunteers have already shown their dedication and interest in your cause, and that not asking them for donations was leaving money on the table.

Monica wrote (in part):
I have been volunteering with one specific organization for over a year and they have yet to ask me to donate... If this organization has not asked me, I bet that they haven't asked other volunteers either - effectively missing a large pool of constituents.  ... Hank Rosso suggests that the most likely potential donors have three characteristics – linkage, ability, and interest. Since the volunteer is involved it is clear that linkage to the organization and interest in mission are already in place. The remaining characteristic is ability. Often an organization will know if their volunteer has the ability to give, if the organization doesn’t know, the only way to find out is to ask. ...
I usually think of the "linkage, ability, and interest" equation as the "Triple A Qualifications: Ability, Affinity, & Access." Whichever terms you use to remember this by, it's excellent advice. And thank you, Monica, for sharing your story.


  1. Great post. As the saying goes 'ask and you shall receive'...organizations should not automatically assume that they know those who can afford to donate and those who cannot...there is no harm in asking. Afterall, nothing is lost, but something can be gained.

  2. Also there is a contest going on for nonprofits or organizations that help the community have a chance to win a free website for 6 months, valued at $5,000.. SPREAD THE WORD TO THOSE INTERESTED.

  3. You know, I think this is muddying the issue a bit. There are many reasons that major donors give to a nonprofit. Not all want total control over a nonprofit's direction.

    Fighting poverty can be measured in number of people helped to get living wage jobs.

    Fighting inequality can be measured in the number of low-income people attending your voter registration rally or completing your leadership training program.

    Advocacy funding is harder than services to fund, it's true, but when we look at the long term ways that advocacy does help, it is a fundraising challenge that we should embrace. We can make the case for support in long-term numbers. Even though governmental allocation of funds isn't as compelling as children with cancer, it is just as important.

  4. I think that philanthro-capitalists are working hard to get the sector to be more efficient.

    Just because they didn't come up through the nonprofit ranks as a social worker doesn't mean that they can't hire the brains to figure out what nonprofits need more of-

    organization, structure, better management, better wages, efficiency.