Drakes Bay Fundraising
A Next Generation Fundraising Company

Doing Good Well

Posted by Christopher Dann
Tuesday May 13, 2014
Categories: Uncategorized

There’s a lot of attention paid these days to seemingly out-sized compensation packages, of corporate CEOs, of professional athletes, of entertainers, and recently of high-ranking executives of nonprofit organizations (CEOs along with star program talent such as medical and artistic directors).

I wish Gretchen Morgenson would take on compensation accountability in the nonprofit sector. The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times business columnist has done significant public service drawing attention for nearly a decade to the connections between the fortune-taking of top corporate executives and the good they have or have not done for their shareholders.

Whether it’s in private enterprise, professional sports, medicine, the arts, entertainment, or charity, doing good while doing well needs to be done well to do any good. Whining or ranting about how well anyone does financially is a waste of energy better applied, as Ms. Morgenson demonstrates repeatedly, to assessing the good that they do relative to how well they’re compensated.

As irresponsible as corporate directors have been shown to be in tying C-suite compensation to actual productivity on behalf of shareholders (the good they’re hired to do), so have so many in positions to do the right things in the nonprofit sector been irresponsible about accounting for the good to which their organization’s mission and vision statements aspire.

Brian Fung, writing in the Washington Post April 30 made an important contribution to this discussion. He was reporting on the fact that the tech start-up accelerator Y Combinator has begun assisting start-up nonprofit organizations.

Although he said the inevitable, “The aim is to do good while doing well,” just four paragraphs into his article, Fung’s reporting wasn’t about executive compensation. Rather is was concerned with the business planning that is essential to accounting for good. Y Combinator not only introduces entrepreneurs to financiers – in this case philanthropic financiers – it is determined to set them, whether for-profit or not, on productive courses.

There is much to be skeptical about in the presumptions of Y Combinator’s approach.  As an example, Fung reports Y Combinator’s specific emphasis on “the power of [a nonprofit’s] own business model to survive, rather than on donations…[believing that] weaning nonprofits off constant fundraising will make them leaner and more efficient.”  That’s a short-sighted – albeit common – view of fundraising; but it also seeds opportunity for great mischief if entrepreneurs come to believe that for-profit-forged business models exempt them from keeping their financial wellness commensurate with the good that their organizations do.

Fung did not, of course, write the headline for his article: “Can Silicon Valley Teach Nonprofits How to Save the World?”  But he did write:

…at a time when Americans are growing increasingly distrustful of Silicon Valley’s swagger, the more relevant question may be what engaging nonprofits may hold for a tech industry that’s reached an uncertain adolescence.

Alas, in Silicon Valley more than most places on earth, opportunities abound for doing good, not just with the money being made but with how it is being made.

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Next Generation Fundraising and Drakes Bay Fundraising merged in the fall of 2013, bringing the longstanding professional acquaintances of their four principals – Tim Oleary, Carol Leister, Cindy Germain, and Christopher Dann – into a single company and combining the special resources and experiences of each to provide clients greater breadth and depth of service.

For more information about Next Generation Fundraising, click here.