Wall Street Muscles In

I really wish I’d been wrong in my earlier warnings about the growth of commercial donor-advised funds. But the latest Philanthropy 400 rankings from the Chronicle of Philanthropy indicate that the Wall Street acquisition of the nonprofit sector is, if anything, ahead of schedule.

It turns out that for the second year in a row, the second-largest “philanthropy” in terms of funds raised in the U.S. is an entity called Fidelity Charitable. Fidelity Charitable’s growth rate was an astonishing 89% over the year before, and with donations of $3.2 billion, it is positioned to overtake United Way Worldwide (that is, the combined United Ways of the entire country), which only grew 1% and raised $3.9 billion.

How is something named Fidelity considered a charity at all, let alone one that is poised to become the nation’s largest? Here’s a history lesson. Continue reading

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Missing the Obvious in Nonprofit Ratings

[Note: This post is simultaneously being published as an opinion piece in the October 6, 2013 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.]

Americans love ratings and rankings. We like to think that all large, complicated questions can be answered by simple numbers.

That’s given rise to the notion that nonprofits can be fairly and simply rated. And it’s not surprising that, once you scratch the surface, nonprofit rating systems prove to be nonsensical and even harmful. Continue reading

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