Archive for the ‘Fundraising’ Category
…Consumption philanthropy corrupts the very behavior that should expand our capacity for empathy and turns it into the social equivalent of paying a sex worker for “the girlfriend experience.” Philanthropy should imply a categorically different relationship with money than the one we have a consumers: something we embark on because we want to participate in a larger goal of improving the world and linking our values, histories, and resources with the needs of other people. Instead, this sector is increasingly vulnerable to what Michael Sandelcalls “the corrosive tendency of markets” to crowd out non-market values. “When we decide that certain goods may be bought and sold,” according to Sandel, “we decide…that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities, as instruments of profit and use.”
If we insist that this is the only way to effectively address massive social problems, we resign ourselves to a world dictated by consumer impulses. From our Warby Parker glasses all the way down to our TOMS shoes, we can cover ourselves head-to-toe with signifiers of empathy in lieu of actual connection to humans who need help. Philanthropy means “love of humanity.” Yet as philanthropy merges and then is overridden by consumer activity, it is our own humanity that gets lost in the process…
Like the wave that forms at the bow of a ship when it moves through the water, so new trends in philanthropy define the outer limits of the nonprofit industry’s wake. A large bow wave slows the ship down, is a risk to smaller boats, and in a harbor can damage shore facilities and moored ships. Therefore, ship hulls are generally designed to produce as small a bow wave as possible. But in our world of fundraising new ideas are meant to create as large a wave as possible. With the advent of each new use of technology or way of making an appeal known, one would think philanthropy is being re-created, that all things new need to be learned and embraced to survive. But in the end, philanthropy is about relationships and the rule that one must ask to receive.
Johnson said the Knight challenge had the potential to create funding difficulties for some of the smaller organizations that might find donors tapped out, but many of the fundraisers said that the Knight challenge might become a rising tide that could lift all their boats. New donors will likely be identified, and Phil Knight himself might be signaling his future philanthropy could be on the rise.
“The philanthropy landscape is beginning to change,” Johnson said. He told the conference audience that they could not expect to continue business as usual and that if they were going to survive, they likely would need to “pay more attention to their business practices.”
Attendees, who ranged from the Oregon Humane Society to Meals On Wheels, spoke of potentially increasing collaboration with one another in the future, though that almost never extends to sharing the names of donors. Johnson said it was unlikely OHSU would share the names of any new philanthropists it uncovers as part of its fundraising campaign.
In advance of the meeting, the organization commissioned a survey of local nonprofits. When asked whether the Knight challenge would, in fact, be “a rising tide that lifts all boats,” 47 percent of fundraisers said it was unlikely and 27 percent said they were neutral. Smaller nonprofits that raised less than $500,000 in 2013 were more likely to voice concern about the Knight grant, according to the survey.
Those numbers suggest a high level of concern, according to Johnson. “Fundraisers are a pretty optimistic lot,” he said.