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'A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose...'

September 23, 2012

Timely reminder from CauseWired founder Tom Watson:

[T]he nonprofit world -- indeed the universe of philanthropy -- will always be different from capital markets. Some reasons are fairly obvious: social capital is not as easy to measure as dollars and cents. The impact of giving (or social investing) is much more difficult to assess than sales figures, stock prices, and capital appreciation. The return on investment will always have some haze beyond the spreadsheets. And the human instinct to give -- or invest in social change -- is different than the drive to make money and conquer markets. It is often (though not always) tied to personal feelings, social standing, and the desire to do something that doesn't require the usual accounting. There's another difference as well. Capital markets tolerate failure at a much higher rate than would be acceptable to nonprofit donors. Most business ventures fail. Most nonprofits do not -- or rather, more accurately, they do not close their doors, merge with other organizations, or write down lost venture funding. In the worst cases, they tend to soldier on, withering slowly as their appeal to private donors and other funders diminishes -- and their impact falters. That's because there is no market for philanthropic stock, almost no liquidity for social capital....

Read the full post ("With Charity for All: Big Philanthropy and the Challenge of Democracy") here....


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