Why haven’t we tackled the “biggie” of systemic challenges?

We like to think we know change in the nonprofit sector. We’re in the business of systemic change after all. So why haven’t we tackled the “biggie” of systemic challenges? Yes, I’m talking about our challenges as a sector.

In our current Page to Practice™ book feature of Charity Case at CausePlanet, we’ve explored how author Dan Pallotta argues that the social sector is required to work with a different rule book than the corporate world. This alternative rule book prevents us from moving the needle on critical humanitarian issues and reflects five transgressions against the sector. These transgressions range from disparities in compensation, to risk-tolerance for revenue generation, to the time horizon for successful outcomes.

Pallotta further asserts that the social sector needs its own civil rights movement to overcome these hurdles perpetuated by the current rule book and explains his plan for a new “Charity Defense Council” to lead it.

The Council should approach the problem from five angles: 1) Establish an Anti-Defamation League; 2) launch an aggressive, paid public media campaign; 3) enact a National Civil Rights Act for Charity and Social Enterprise; 4) establish a Legal Defense Fund; and 5) organize the sector on behalf of its own issues (including 17 ways to get involved in this movement).

In our interview with Pallotta, we asked him about which of the five strategies he felt was most important and about the role of other sectors:

CausePlanet: You’ve discussed five strategies that will help the social sector change the way our society views charities. In your opinion, which is the most important among them?

Pallotta: We need to begin with anti-defamation and public advertising efforts. Those are the two quickest paths to a public conversation. Charities are defamed in the media all the time, and there is no legitimate nationally respected voice there to defend or offer an alternative point of view. And that’s free media if we can get an anti-defamation voice to respond to those stories. With public advertising, we can completely control the message and deliver lay-friendly, really smart, really provocative ads that can change people’s minds quickly.

CausePlanet: Many thought leaders observe meaningful social change happens when sectors collaborate to create a movement. What essential actions might we need, if any, from the corporate and government sectors to accomplish this new view of charities?

Pallotta: Not to be too pedestrian, but one of the things we could use would be corporate brands sponsoring these efforts with financial support. The government could create a sea change overnight by finding a national iTunes for charity that would give the public much more robust and friendly information that is updated regularly. Eventually it could provide information on every single nonprofit organization in the country.

Do you feel you operate under a separate rule book from the corporate sector? Have you experienced any of the transgressions Pallotta mentions? If yes to either question, tell us about it.

For more information about Dan Pallotta’s Charity Case, or to purchase his book, visit www.danpallotta.com.

If you would like to view the full Page to Practice™ book summary of Charity Case to research the book further, visit our Summary Store to purchase a copy or subscribe to our entire Page to Practice™ library of recommended reading. Or, download a free sample of a Page to Practice book summary and see if you like our format.

See also:

Charity Case

One-Hour Activist

4 responses to “Why haven’t we tackled the “biggie” of systemic challenges?”

  1. Natasha says:

    This is such a HUGE question we in the nonprofit sector need to be continually asking ourselves and an even bigger challenge to act on. I agree with Dan that in order for the sector to gain more ground the rules that society places on the nonprofit sector need to be overhauled and that new rule book written.

  2. Hanna Cooper says:

    Denise, it’s a great point to be examining and challenging the status quo of the nonprofit world here! Being willing to look at our rule book and break some rules in service of our missions is part of what leaders need to be doing – more often! Thanks to you & Palotta for being willing to raise some of these critical issues!

  3. Emily Davis says:

    I absolutely love Dan Palotta for all of these ideas. We need better self-advocacy as a sector, but enough time and knowledge to do it. Groups like Independent Sector and CForward have provided a great start!

  4. At the heart of the question here are ways to increase impact. Cultural shifts are long incoming and difficult to enact. Now seems to be the ripe moment to see the needed changes taking hold in society. Heightened advocacy for needed change is something we can all support, no matter the cause.

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