Over at Tactical Philanthropy Sean Stannard-Stockton relates a conversation in which a major foundation grantmaker told him it was a primary value of the foundation to not harm grantees.

The context was Sean asking whether philanthropists should speak out about nonprofits they considered to be ineffective.

What a remarkable position for a grantmaker to take, effectively … "even if they suck, we love them!"

That grantmaker oughta be fired.

It’s bad enough that hard-working, ethical, well-performing nonprofits must be saddled with public cynicism generated by the scum "charities" … the paper ones that live to rip-off donors by throwing most of their income into salaries and controlled marketing vendors.

These practices and charities pull down the reputation of the entire sector … and provide plenty of fodder for tabloid-level coverage of the charity/nonprofit world. So we have plenty of pinhead coverage of "fundraising efficiencies" and breathless reporting of outright scams.

But then compound this trust-busting by evidencing to the public an attitude that performance doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all doing god’s work.

Performance does matter. The problems are too big to be addressed even remotely by the philanthropic monies on the table. There’s not a dollar to spare. Consequently, there’s certainly not a dollar to spare on nonprofits that are ineffective.

In fact, there’s not a dollar to spare on nonprofits that are just "OK" in comparison to others in their field who are superlative.

The nonprofit world has proven remarkably resistant to Darwinian natural selection …survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, that’s in part because of the muddle-headed attitude of too many old-school grantmakers and donors like the one cited by Sean.

We need much more attention to performance and, while one-size-fits-all metrics aren’t appropriate, we need far more rigor in assessment and transparency in sharing those assessments.

Letting a thousand flowers bloom has turned into an impossible to penetrate or manage infestation of weeds. 

Tom

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