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With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give Hardcover – February 26, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (February 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038553471X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534710
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stern, corporate executive and former CEO of NPR, tells the story of how the charitable sector in the U.S. has lost its way because of the absence of market mechanisms that reward good work and punish failure. His research uncovered organizational and service failures in charities that refused to evaluate their programs and ignored poor results. There are approximately 1.4 million charities in this country with a workforce of 13 million and volunteers numbering 61 million; revenues total more than $1.5 trillion annually. “Charitable activity accounts for 10 percent of the economic life of this country,” says the author, seeing hope in a small movement that is currently rethinking how charities operate, and he is optimistic that tools will be developed so that contributors to charities will become investors rather than donors. Stern emphasizes that social investing takes work and urges donors to look beyond clever marketing campaigns for organizations that are transparent and accountable to stakeholders. Important and thought-provoking analysis. --Mary Whaley


“Ken Stern, former chief executive officer of National Public Radio, includes surprise after surprise within the pages of With Charity for All….Color him more exasperated than mean, more provocative than shrill, and counterintuitive instead of purveying stale conventional wisdom. Stern's advice is consequential, because if followed it will alter the charitable realm.”
USA Today

"In this provocative exposé, the former CEO and COO of National Public Radio takes a critical view of today’s nonprofit world, calling for reform and a redefinition of what constitutes a charity. For anyone who has given time or money to not-for-profits, Stern’s critique will prove both disturbing and thought-provoking ... An engrossing read, this look at the evolution and current state of the charitable world is sure to stimulate debate."
Publishers Weekly

"[Stern] fills the text with insightful, vivid examples ... A trove of useful insider wisdom."
Kirkus Reviews

"Important and thought provoking analysis"

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Customer Reviews

You will never approach charity in the same hopeful kind of way.
Vartges Saroyan
Hmmm . . . . Stern makes a good argument with these examples that the very concept of charity has been stretched.
Paul A. Mastin
Very informative and a good read for anyone trying to develop a personal giving strategy.
Todd M. Petersen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Mastin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
After a decade at National Public Radio, Ken Stern learned a few things about the weird world of the American nonprofit sector. In his new book, With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give, Stern bemoans the state of charitable activity today, arguing that most of the nonprofit sector is financially inept at best, and downright unsavory at worst.

Some charities obviously are fraudulent. Every now and then we read about them. When the salary of the CEO and money spent on phone banks dwarf the tiny percentage of revenues, if any, that go to the supposed beneficiaries of a charity, it's easy to call foul. But it's not always so easy to identify this type of non-charity. Getting charitable status from the IRS is a breeze, state oversight is weak to non-existent, and plenty of donors are swayed by words like "veteran," "children," "hope," "beneficial," "cancer," and other key words. Investigating the financials of charities can be time-consuming, frustrating, and near impossible.

Other charities, while more above-board about their financials and activities, probably should not be classified as charities. Two examples Stern explores are non-profit hospitals and college football bowl games. In terms of treating needy patients, non-profit hospitals as a whole are no more charitable, and in some cases less, than their for-profit competitors. Yet they enjoy a variety of tax benefits that give them a competitive advantage. With the bowl games, it's even harder to say that they are "charities" with the money they spend on golf outings, high salaries, travel, and entertainment. Similarly, Stern points the finger at opera companies, charities which exist primarily for the benefit of--their donors!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on April 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The mutual fund industry employs over 150,000 people to rate/evaluate for-profit firms. Nothing remotely comparable exists to monitor the non-profit world. Private corporations respond to market signals and go out of business when they fail; non-profits answer to often naive/far-removed donors and boards that typically value system peace over anything else, and once established, rarely die.

There are about 1.1 million charities in America, and that's not counting local chapters. The number grows by about 50,000/year, and the sector employs about 13 million. In addition, over 61 million volunteer for charities, contributing the equivalent of about another 5 million FTEs. The charities take in over $1.5 trillion/year (about one-third from governments) and have assets of $3 trillion.

Assistance provided from non-profits can be 'amateurish,' as the American Red Cross' efforts post Katrina in Mississippi were described by the head of logistics for the British Red Cross. Volunteers were assigned tasks without training or adequate skills, supplies transported and donated that were useless (eg. card games, stale and perishable foods, radios without batteries), and pilfering was common. Little documentation existed of who got what, when. These failures were replicated throughout the areas affected by Katrina, and similar to the post 9/11 response the Red Cross provided earlier. Walmart's responses noted by many as faster, more useful, and much better managed/documented.

Charities forgo necessary investments for organizational effectiveness to keep overhead costs down. Few can demonstrate measurable success. A group of 8 analysts at Bridgewater Hedge Fund (assets of $160 billion) in 2006 decided to review the sector to find the best charities to donate to.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kristine Christlieb on March 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fundraiser for more than 25 years; I've worked in small organizations, big hospital systems, elite higher education--I've even been at an organization that went bankrupt. I know the non-profit sector. Ken Stern is dead on. It is remarkable that such an important part of our culture and economy could be so dysfunctional. I'll give one example: I do not have the statistics, but in my experience there are few fundraisers who would say they are working with a healthy, functioning governing board. And likewise, I'm guessing there is a comparable amount of disrespect for fundraisers from board members. Penelope Burke has research on this in connection with the high turnover in the fundraising profession. Fundraisers blame their board members; board members blame the fundraisers. I don't know . . . maybe every industry is like this.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sue M. Nagamoto on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Have you ever asked yourself the true motive of your donations? How many donors give only out of good will and to advance a worthy cause? How many, particularly the wealthy, give to advance their names and achieve personal recognition, and how many donate only to take advantage of the tax breaks? How many of us are leery of giving to an organization that we know is distributing only a single digit percentage to the intended cause? Ken Stern's book, With Charity for All, provides some insights into those questions.

In the introduction to his book, Ken Stern says, "This book is not my story. This is a story about how the charitable sector lost its way." He backs up his statement with more than a hundred pages of decriptions of dozens and dozens of charities that have harbored unreliable and sometimes unethical chairmen, or charities that were developed by leaders with good intentions who, through lack of organization, failed in their objectives.

He covers all categories of charitable organizations: colleges, churches, athletic programs, music and arts, health, federal government programs, Salvation Army, the USGA, the D.A.R.E program, hospitals, college bowl games, and others too numerous to mention.

He cites examples of the rich and famous who were involved, positively or negatively, with the growing charitable foundations: John D. Rockefeller III, Andrew Carnegie, T. Boone Pickens, the Vanderbilts, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Joan Kroc...on and on.

All taxpayers know that whether you contribute $500.00 or 5 million dollars, you are allowed a tax deduction. With over 1 million tax exempt charities in the US today, the "understaffed" Internal Revenue Service enacts the laws of charitable tax deductions without question or investigation.
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