Incomplete Pass

It’s reasonable to think that when you make a donation to a particular charitable organization, the funds will be used in a way that supports that organization’s mission. But as a recent Boston Globe article by Bob Hohler explains, that’s not how it always works,...

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Strange Math

[A version of this piece appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on July 13, 2017.] Here’s the world’s simplest math problem. My wife Pat and I often meet a pair of friends for a movie. If there’s a risk that the show will sell out, I run over to the theater ahead...

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No Sale

Contributing to charity is a unique transaction in our society: people give money and receive nothing tangible in return. I think of this when individuals who have spent their careers in the for-profit world draw comparisons between the business and nonprofit realms....

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Collateral Damage

People keep asking me: How is the current political upheaval going to affect nonprofits? My first answer: I don’t really know. We’re in unprecedented political times. Who really can predict what will happen? My second answer: That said, indications are that the next...

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Sidewalks, Snow, and Democracy

You can learn a lot about people and communities by how they clear their sidewalks. And I think there may be a lesson in there for those of us trying to understand the political strife that’s tearing apart the nation. I should pause to explain for readers who live in...

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Navigating the Evaluators

I recently gave a keynote address for a conference of nonprofit leaders in Oregon. At one point, I asked people to raise their hands if they thought that the evaluation methodology of Charity Navigator, the country’s most popular nonprofit rating system, had validity....

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Giving, When You Have a Lot to Give

[Note: A version of this post appeared in Philanthropy Daily on February 8, 2018.] The rich have always played a leading role in charitable giving. Now their role is getting larger. In fact, soon the middle class may not even have a speaking part. The growing...

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Wall Street 9, Charity 0

The news last week was stunning, but at the same time utterly unsurprising: When The Chronicle of Philanthropy compiled its annual Philanthropy 400 list of the nonprofit organizations that had raised the most money in the United States last year, the top dog was not...

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Starvation Diet

A friend who serves on a nonprofit board asked me whether her organization was drawing enough from its endowment each year. “Probably not,” I answered. Then she described her organization’s endowment spending policies. I was right. Endowment spending policies are...

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