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Phil Buchanan Speaks Up for Philanthropy

January 25, 2010

"American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector it supports are under attack. The attack comes both from outside the boundaries of the sector and from within it...."

That's the provocative premise behind a series of blog posts written by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, back in November. In the opening post of the series, Buchanan writes:

With recent books from Philanthrocapitalism to Uncharitable receiving prominent play -- and their authors being feted by those within and outside the sector -- there is real danger that an appreciation of the nonprofit sector's distinctive identity and purpose will be lost.

Both of these books, though very different, contain some good ideas about how the sector can improve -- and some completely wacky ones too. But the real problem lies in the fact that both caricature the sector unfairly and look simplistically and misguidedly to the markets and "business practice" as the answers. Both lack sufficient appreciation for the fact that if free markets or the government could solve all our problems or fulfill our needs for expression, we wouldn't have any use for a nonprofit sector at all. But, alas, we do....

I agree with Buchanan on that score and was delighted to learn that our friend (and sometime PhilanTopic contributor) Susan Herr had recently interviewed Buchanan as part of her series of video chats for the Communication Network. It's a lively and interesting conversation, and well worth your time. (Running time: 29 minutes.)

  • Center for Effective Philanthropy: Right Place, Right Time (0:00)
  • "Philanthropy is under attack" (1:20)
  • What is motivating these attacks? (7:47)
  • How can we effectively deliver the message that the NPO sector is good but needs to be better? (13:42)
  • Why should I have to speak to what philanthropy as a whole is doing v. my own organization's efforts? (18:39)
  • Why is it time to start violating "communication commandments?" (22:42)

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