top of page


Updated: Jun 29

I recently viewed the documentary, "Uncharitable," by Dan Pallotta on how society values and supports the work of nonprofits. He challenges the traditional views of nonprofits and advocates for a shift in the mindset towards maximizing impact.

This film is a call to action to shift from scrutinizing administrative cost to to making a long-term investment to make sustainable changes that work. The film speaks to donors or all sizes, boards of directors, philanthropists and other stakeholders to drive social change by freeing non-profits of the confines of under spending on marketing and advertising, playing it safe, and under paying staff, all in an effort to keep their overhead low.

Keeping overhead low means that the nonprofit organization relies solely or mostly on free non-prime time ads to influence your market or publicize your event, which is counter-productive to raising money and awareness.

Keeping overhead low means that the nonprofit won't try new ideas that could be costly or just might not work for fear that they'll be seen as wasteful.

Keeping overhead how means that the nonprofits are not paying executives what they are worth, because working in a nonprofit must mean that the nonprofit must be frugal to the point of paying staff half of what the for profit equivalent pays.

Simply put, nonprofits are under an immense amount of pressure to solve society's issues while filling in the gaps between business and government.

Following the viewing, I sat on a panel discussion about the film.. I agree with Mr. Palotta's assertions that nonprofits are judged and put under a microscope of scrutiny which is supposed to put the donor at ease about trusting them to do whatever it is that they've been tasked to do: end homelessness, find a cure for cancer, support wounded veterans or provide skills training and jobs for people with barriers to employment.

The issue that the film and the 2008 book by Palotta under the same title "Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential," spells out clearly is that nonprofits will never be able to solve society's problems or fully meet their mission until they are given the freedom and funds to conduct themselves like a successful for profit business.

Until the scales of cheap scrutiny fall away, nonprofits cannot advertise their events or products on prime time or hire the best staff and pay them accordingly. The public does not want to see those who help others living well. We should simply be grateful for the opportunity to serve.

My view is that one is not exclusive of the other, you can do well, live well, and gratefully serve others. In fact, I follow the notion that you cannot do good, until you do well. Before you reach your hand in your pocket to help someone else, you must have it to give.

The truth is that nonprofits are full of brilliant, talented and hard-working individuals who have a heart for service. Their heart, nor their work should be threatened because they want to take chances on a new idea. For profits are applauded for being innovative and we tell nonprofits that they should follow suit, but hamstring them with restrictions on how dollars are spent.

I'm not saying that nonprofits should not be held accountable, but hold us accountable in the same way you hold for profits accountable. Provide the money, trust and time for us to make a sustainable change in the issues that matter the most.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page