Welcome! Within these pages, I will explore the many facets of compelling ideas I've encountered with the hope that you will find inspiration for your own life. I encourage you to explore some of the Big Ideas that I support with my time and energy. Also, check out the Spark Chamber where we can explore possibilities together.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We think about nonprofits all wrong

AIDS Ride founder Dan Pallotta gave an excellent TED talk on why the way we think about charities is all wrong. Click here to watch it.

I couldn't agree with him more. His central premise is how absurd it is that nonprofits are rewarded for how little money they spend on "overhead" activities. He outlines five important areas where we as a society have lost our way regarding nonprofits:

  1. We don't compensate employees commensurate with their skill and contribution.
  2. We frown upon spending on advertizing and marketing.
  3. We don't allow any risk in taking on new revenue generating ideas.
  4. We expect money to immediately be used for the cause and don't allow time to build a brand.
  5. We don't allow profit to attract risk capital.

I propose adding a sixth point to his list:  We don't invest enough in innovating new solutions and implementing revolutionary approaches.

This is not to say that there is no investment in innovative thinking.  There are some notable and HUGE foundations out there looking to help spur big innovations often proposed by big-time charities.  What we lack is funding for more modest ventures that have big ideas yet are not fully developed or proven.  

There are too few funders willing to look at social sector innovation in the same way a venture captialist may look at for-profit innovation.  Imagine a pool of ideas, all of which show promise but none of which have had the time or support to realize their full potential.  Then, take those ideas and cultivate them, allow them to grow, prune them if they don't prove effective, and reward them if they succeed.  Surely taking this approach will result in a few spectacular ideas.

After all, why would you want to contribute to just one promising idea, when you could invest in a pool of ideas which are all given every opportunity to succeed?  

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