Foundation Friday: At the roots or out on a limb?

At the risk of magnifying the blog echo-chamber effect, today’s post refers to a debate at Tactical Philanthropy concerning whether foundations should address "root causes" or be "merely charitable."  Even phrasing the question that way demonstrates that it’s a false choice; charity is important and so are efforts to make sure charity will someday be unnecessary to solve certain social problems. 

But the argument on the other blog (beginning with a podcast by Bill Schambra, apparently a well-known thinker on the subject) is less philanthropic-philosophical than political: Schambra, from the right-wing Hudson Institute, argues that foundations have wasted their time analyzing social problems instead of relieving them.  Though the Nonprofiteer is a great believer in the value of charity–she doesn’t talk politics with people whose bellies are empty–she could hardly disagree more, as her comment on his observations makes clear:

The not-so-hidden agenda of "philanthropy should stop bothering with
root causes" has two items prominently posted: first, that substantial
sums of money shouldn’t be spent to critique capitalism (though
substantial sums of money are spent to critique anything suggested to
ameliorate its ills); second, that philanthropy should take as its sole
business providing services to the needy, thereby relieving the
government of that obligation. The second item bears a strong family
resemblance to the neoconservatives’ idea of "starving the beast,"
depriving government of resources through huge tax cuts so that it can
no longer provide social services. Here, the recommendation is to
starve the beast of philanthropy (by throwing its relative pittance
into the bottomless hole of social need) so that it can no longer
provide an independent voice about the direction of our society.

Maybe only swine spend their time among roots but you need them to find truffles. 

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2 Responses to “Foundation Friday: At the roots or out on a limb?”

  1. Bruce Trachtenberg Says:

    Thanks, Nonprofiteer. I was afraid the steam might run out of the debate over at Tactical Philanthropy. But your post, along with a reprise of your comment, keeps the conversation going. Thanks, too, for getting to the “root cause” of Schambra’s mantra in your critique of his observations.

  2. bUM fREE Says:

    Continued at White Courtesy Telephone. New blood desperately needed. Where *is* Nonprofiteer?? 😉

    http://postcards.typepad.com/white_telephone/2007/07/william-schambr.html

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