A colleague recommended I read the book, Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta. A great read and very different about the nonprofit sector, it presents the paradigm that tax-exempt organizations do business on an unequal playing field as it relates to getting “its” message out, branding and developing that love mark that all businesses strive to attain. Pallotta therefore posits that society will never truly overcome the social inequities that abound because of this unfair balance. Clearly he believes that it is these type organizations must “come to the rescue” and that societies look to them for ameliorating the worlds’ injustices.
I like the book on many levels. It busted my bubble in some aspects as it relates to measuring efficiency. And because of his carefully presented argument, I just may adjust my strategy on that one… a little bit. And of course he, just like about everyone in our sector, knows that the archaic form 990 is long overdue for a revision and he writes a great deal about that inadequacy.
My favorite part of the book however really has nothing to do with nonprofits specifically. Pallotta did a good job of framing the importance of marketing and yes, within the context of nonprofit operations. As someone who has TWO start-ups, I could not agree more. Pallotta included an excerpt from David Oglivy’s 1987 book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, illustrating a budget line item for launching a new brand [business, nonprofit]. The number has lots of commas. Reality and despair set in as Oglivy listed thoughtful, and valid objections when a new company starts out when offering its product or service as to how a potential client/ donor thinks. Here are a few of those objections:
I don’t know your company [nonprofit].
I don’t know what your company [nonprofit] stands for.
I don’t know your company’s [nonprofit’s] reputation.
And what do you want to sell me? [aka Why should I donate to you?]
There’s more, but you get the picture. Painful, yet true. These questions should be used in every class that is offered to people who are thinking about starting a business or a nonprofit. If love makes the world go round – marketing is the chain to help it spin.
Unequal playing fields are a reality. We see it in education, gender issues, and neighborhoods, even in hiring decisions. With that, just like No Child Left Behind and EEOC, policies and acts are created by enough voices and forward movement from those who care. I like to think of it as a tipping point. A tipping point for positive social change.
I disagree with Mr. Pallotta that all rests on this nonprofit sector and that societal change will never occur because at its core – nonprofits are set up to fail. Thank God, our societal injustices are not in the hands of nonprofits alone. It takes a village. Government (I know, I know – that is another blog), business, social enterprise, caring and focused individuals – everybody needs to do their fair share. And I will end this blog by thanking Mr. Pallotta for writing his book and for the amazing work done through Pallotta Team Works. Raising the bar on how things are done to help alleviate the suffering of a cause and raising awareness on how unjust some questions are when determining efficiency are good things for the greater common good.