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We all want to alleviate human suffering--to reduce poverty, to feed the hungry, to cure diseases. Around the world, people donate tens of billions of dollars to charity every year toward that end. In our heart of hearts, we want to change the world. But if we look at the big social problems, the needles aren't moving very much--not at nearly the pace we had hoped. In the U.S., for the past forty years poverty has remained constant at twelve percent of the population. AIDS deaths have increased from 1.1 million a year twenty years ago to 1.8 million today. Breast cancer deaths in the U.S. have only gone down by about eight percent in twenty years.
In my last book, Uncharitable, I explored why we haven't been able to make progress on these social challenges. I argued that our social problems are much larger than our nonprofits--and that our nonprofits are unable to grow to meet their scale because we force charities to operate under a set of rules that prevents them from doing so. We don't let charities pay to lure the best talent away from for-profit sectors. We don't want charities to spend money on advertising. We don't want charities to take any of the risks they need to take in order to succeed. We deny charities the freedoms we give businesses to allow them to prosper.
Since the publication of Uncharitable, I have given 150 speeches on this subject in twenty-nine states and seven countries. After each speech, attendees are hungry to know what we can do about this situation--how we can give charities the freedom they need to really grow and actually solve our social problems. So I decided to write a book about it. Charity Case is the result.What is the most important thing that needs to change for charities to have the freedom they really need to grow?
We need to change the way the public thinks about charity. Individuals give seventy-five percent of the $300 billion donated to nonprofit organizations each year. They influence public policy. The media gives the public what they think the public wants. So changing the way the public thinks about charities is key to changing the rules that undermine their ability to actually solve social problems.What's wrong with the way the public thinks about charity and giving?
Pretty much everything. The public wants charities to spend as little as possible on overhead. The public doesn't like to see charities paying high executive salaries. The public wants every gala dinner and walk-a-thon to send one hundred percent of the money donated back to the cause. What the public doesn't realize is that low overhead is not a path to the end of world hunger or a cure for cancer. It's the opposite. Only allowing charities access to the lowest-cost talent is not a strategic plan for alleviating human suffering. Demanding home runs on every charitable fundraising endeavor discourages innovation and keeps charities small and in fear. The very things the public has been taught are good and ethical--low overhead, low executive pay, funneling all donations to the cause--are practices that are killing us.
The public doesn't know this is wrong because the nonprofit sector, government regulators, and the media keep telling them that these are the things that matter. Thus we are trapped in a vicious cycle with the public: we keep telling people what they want to hear about how their charitable donations should be used, and they keep parroting that back to us. But it's not true, and we need to take the first step within the nonprofit sector to make that known.How do you change the way the public thinks about charities?
By talking to them methodically, often, and consistently. By helping the public understand that what they really want is not low overhead. What they really want is to solve social problems. My experience has been that the public has tremendous common sense. Once you tell them that low overhead is not how you solve social problems, they want to know how you do solve social problems, and they want you to start doing the things that will do that. It's just that no one has ever given them the full story.How do you start this conversation on a national level?
By creating a national leadership organization for precisely that purpose. Right now the nonprofit sector lacks such an organization so several of us in the sector have created one: the Charity Defense Council. The Charity Defense Council will focus on five strategies to fundamentally change the way the public thinks about charity:
My goal with the publication of Charity Case and the organization of the Charity Defense Council is to fundamentally transform the way the public thinks about charity within ten years. How will we know if we have achieved this? A study from NYU revealed that in 2008 seventy percent of the general public believed that charities waste either "a great deal" or "a fair amount of money." We will know we have succeeded when seventy percent of the public believes the opposite.
“Charity Case is an Apollo program for American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Pallotta’s understanding of the hamstrung nonprofit sector is poetic and therapeutic. His prescription is sensible and profound. Charity Case will inspire its readers with an expansive sense of possibility.”
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
“Every once in a while a book states the obvious in such a compelling way that it rises to the level of genius. Charity Case is that exciting. It dares the whole of the charitable industry to raise its voice to the level of the music business and other consumer giants. In its insistence that the industry reject the role of second-class citizen, it has the potential to make charity sexy, and that’s the only way charity’s ever going to change the world.”
—Clive Davis, chief creative officer, Sony Music; founder, Arista Records; former president, Columbia Records
“If we had a prize for the most innovative thinking about charity and social change it would go to Dan Pallotta. Charity Case is the blueprint for unleashing the awesome power of this sector and enlightening the society that unknowingly holds it back. Simply brilliant and in a class by itself.”
—Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation
“Dan Pallotta invites, tempts, and provokes every single one of us to think differently about the humanitarian sector. He has a big vision and artfully makes a case for creating a sector-wide movement capable of powerful actions and needle-moving change that improve lives. In this rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, Dan’s voice is crisp, clear, and compelling.”
—Diana Aviv, president and CEO, Independent Sector
“Dan Pallotta is a big thinker—impatient, generous, and insightful. It’s worth hearing him out.”
—Seth Godin, author, Tribes
“The nonprofit world needs innovation, and Dan Pallotta is helping us see how new ideas can help make our world more successful. In these tough times, we need his out-of-the-box ideas!”
—Bobby Shriver, cofounder, Product (RED)
“Charity Case is visionary in its empathy. It sympathizes with the donating public’s confusion about how charity really works and with the nonprofit sector’s plea to be held to standards that engender trust and grow support. At that intersection lies the promise of a new era of enlightenment about charity and social change.”
—Art Taylor, president, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
“Charity Case takes innovative thinking about the social sector to an entirely new level. Dan Pallotta raises the radical prospect that we can change cultural conventions about charity, making a cause of causes themselves. A powerful call to action.”
—Jane Wei-Skillern, adjunct associate professor, Haas School, University of California, Berkeley; lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Business
“It doesn’t occur to Dan Pallotta that standing on the sidelines is an option. And he makes it impossible for the rest of us to stand back. Charity Case is a wakeup call for every fundraiser around the world. We are the public champions of philanthropy—it’s just that not all of us have been aware of that until now.”
—Andrew Watt, president and CEO, Association of Fundraising Professionals
"Charity Case" has a lot to say and gives practical actions that can be taken to improve things for all charities.
He has some great ideas about how to fix the brokenness, though some of his recommendations will be considered too radical for most in the sector to accept.
While some may call his latest crusade quixotic, to those of us in the trenches of the humanitarian sector, his call to action is most welcome.
This book is full of great research, ideas, and optimism about the nonprofit sector. Americans restrict the humanitarian sector's ability to enact real impact on the people it... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
The best thing about this book is the argument that non-profits should be judged by their impact, their results. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Claudia Brink
Pallotta grabbed my attention early in the Special Note where he justified his use of the phrase Humanitarian Sector versus NonProfit noting: "the term nonprofit means, literally,... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Alicia Crumpton
Made me rethink the whole perception the not-for-profit sector has and the potential that could be unleashed should it change. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Katharma
My husband heard about this books while listening to the radio and he asked me to locate it an purchase it. I don't know if he has had anytime to read it. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Dawn
Charity Case is thought provoking and intelligently written. However, At some point Pallotta shifts from changing the way you think about the non-profit sector to elaborately... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Daniel
I listened to Dan Pallotta on a TED talk and thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say and how he said it. this book confirms what I first thought. I wish everyone would read thisPublished 21 months ago by Kim Procknow
Love the first chapter and the last one. I think for those who are interested, you may read his another book, which is named uncharitable.Published 21 months ago by choice lee