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Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential (Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives) Hardcover – December 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Pallotta TeamWorks was the for-profit brainchild behind several campaigns to raise funds for breast cancer and AIDS research and awareness, creating several nationwide, marathonlike events that raised millions. But its founder came under attack for violating the sacred premises of charitable organizations: low profile, low budget, and little or no profit. Pallotta turns on its head the assumption that charity and capitalism should be forever divided. Don’t charitable causes deserve the same kind of competitive forces that work to get results in the for-profit sector? Wouldn’t social causes be better served if charitable organizations were headed by the kind of bright, aggressive executives that work in the for-profit sector? Pallotta traces the history of nonprofit organizations to Puritan notions of charity and self-denial. He also offers a detailed case study of TeamWorks and other trends in the nonprofit sector that only tweak around the edges of a system that is sorely in need of change if it is to deliver on its mission to improve social inequities or cure diseases. A passionate, thought-provoking look at the nonprofit sector. --Vanessa Bush


"This tome is big-time out-of-the-box thinking that will cause ripples. Yet if you care about charity, it is a must read. While I don't want to lose the volunteer passion and compassion in charitable work, it's high time we confront the fact that, for the most part, this is no longer a bake sale."--In Los Angeles Magazine

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Product Details

  • Series: Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tufts (December 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584657235
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584657231
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must begin by complementing Dan, because his book caused me to review my assumptions about the nonprofit sector. In addition, I was very engaged by the book in that, if you were in a room nearby while I was reading it, you could hear me shouting frequently! Therefore, it was at least a stimulating read for me.
At the same time, I don't recommend the book generally because I don't think it is a good book (1) for the general public to read, (2) for those who you are new to or thinking about joining the sector or (3) for Board Members with limited experience. If you haven't been inside the nonprofit sector for a good while and seen all of its beauty and also its ugliness, you might get swept up in what are the book's many false and misleading arguments.
Which leads to the other side of the coin, one of the main themes in the book - over and over again was Dan's tendency to use extreme arguments and examples that are completely inaccurate characterizations of the state of affairs in the sector (hence my frequent yelling at the book). In other words, he repeatedly sets up a phony straw man and then knocks it down. All the while I am thinking BUT THAT MAN DOESN'T EXIST (!) or so rarely that the opinions stated as facts can totally mislead an otherwise uninformed reader!!! This becomes particularly important as we see the growing interest in people desiring to transition from the for profit sector into the nonprofit sector. God help us if this is a book they base their career decisions on.
Another theme in the book is Dan's idealization of capitalism almost as a God that can lead to self fulfillment and "stunning change" through the wonderful motive of personal gain.
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33 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ken Ristine on January 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What is new in Dan Pallotta's book is not really important, and what is important, isn't really new. Mr. Pallotta's main reason for writing the book is to expose what he feels were unfair critiques of his commercial fund raising company. His rendition of his company's experience provides the only real new information in the book. But that is a narrow focus, and has little value for most volunteers, staffs, and suppoters of charitable causes.

The important issues he covers include questions such as can nonprofits take risks and does a fixation on "overhead" costs prevent the nonprofits from rewarding talent? But he offers little to the discussion because he fails to distinguish between his experience, running a commercial fund raising company, and an actual charity.

I agree with the sentiment he uses as a chapter heading: Let's stop asking this question. His arguement is that when we focus on asking charities how much goes to program versus overhead we fail to look at other important indicators. Low overhead does not mean the organization provides good services.

But that applies to asking the question of charities. The question is still appropriate, even mandatory, to ask of a commercial fund raising firm.

Another example is his observation about charities being afraid to take risks. But does he follow this up with a discussion of charity taking a hard look at how it provides services or bravely underwritting the costs of bringing services to an underserved community? No; his example is the "risk" his organization took in trying innovative fund raising events. Yet a full reading seems to indicate that the cost of the risk really fell to the charitable recipient of the event proceeds. Mr.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jessica on January 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The true value in this book lays not so much in the answers it provides, but in the questions it asks. Why are we disturbed by the pay charity CEOs receive, but not disturbed by the pay that for-profit CEOs receive? Why do we insist that charities "rough it" rather than spend a little more on infrastructure and investments on increased efficiency? That being said, the book's argument is weakened by two poorly-made points early in the book that affect the strength of his later arguments.

Perhaps the number one shortcoming in this book is the order in which his arguments are presented. By starting off with the argument that nonprofit CEOs do not make enough money (only up to a measly $400,000 or so a year!), the author loses some credibility from the very beginning. At one point, the author argues that CEOs have diminished abilities from their pay being so much lower than CEOs of for-profit firms, due to the fact that they cannot afford to join the same country clubs, yachting clubs, attend the same $50,000 a seat galas, etc., as their for-profit competitors. By not being able to run in the same obscenely wealthy social circles, they're not able to lobby for the same kinds of funds they could if they were accepted into that crowd. That's a tough sell. The author repeatedly mentions his Ivy League education and the fact that he could have made dozens of millions of dollars a year in the private sector instead of martyring himself to the nonprofit cause for only about half a million dollars a year. It makes the argument sound a little whiny with an edge of bitterness, and may seem very distasteful to anyone who identifies as lower or middle class. Interspersed throughout this argument are claims that the capitalist system is faultless and should be unrestrained for maximum benefit.
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