What’s wrong with profit?
If you're a fundraiser who has been keeping your head down, focusing on building your good causes' annual campaign, launching your fall major donor drive and keeping your Board members happy, you may well be missing the biggest shift in philanthropy to happen in your lifetime. As The New York Times reports today:
"This year, as never before, the line between philanthropy and business is blurring. A new generation of philanthropists has stepped forward, for the most part young billionaires who have reaped the benefits of capitalism and believe that it can be applied in the service of charity. They are 'philanthropreneurs,' driven to do good and have their profit, too."There are many definitions of philanthropy, but one pragmatic description is “philanthropy is the exercise of private will in the public sector.” From this perspective, the blurring of lines between the for-profit and nonprofit sector is long over due.
On a good day, my wish is the push toward value-driven, sustainable businesses practices means our MBA-graduated brethren have learned something from the social sector field.
But then I am reminded of a conversation I had ten years ago with my investment banker cousin, who upon learning I worked with nonprofits, asked me about sector investment opportunities, “because everybody wants to make a buck.”
Today we live on a planet were the world’s 793 billionaires control more assets than the world’s poorest 3 billion individuals. Such unequal wealth accumulation is due in large part to continuing marketplace deregulations, increasing tax cuts and ongoing access to natural resources at public expense.
For all I know many of these philanthropreneurs are of true compassion and good heart, but I fully agree with Mark Rosenman, a professor at the Union Institute and University, who The Times quoted as saying:
"Though I have no problem with philanthropy and socially responsible business being joined, I do have one with a for-profit enterprise being called philanthropy."Contrary to recent statements, this new trend does not serve the “public interest over political correctness.” Fortunately, there are at least a few business people who understand the difference. Ted Turner, when recently asked about Sir Richard Branson’s $3 billion "donation" made at the Clinton Global Initiative said:
“It’s not a donation.” Rather he said it was an investment. “He’s probably going to make more off that investment than he has in everything else.”The Association of Fundraising Professionals ethic statement reads in part that it members “shall not put philanthropic mission above personal gain … and that members shall not accept compensation that is based on a percentage of contributions.”
So what’s wrong with the world's wealthiest individuals making a profit off the backs of the poor, vulnerable and oppressed? It’s unethical.