Commenting on a comment about a comment provoked by a comment: Infinite regress on nonprofit governance

On the Reality-Based Community blog about public policy, Stephen Teles critiques opposing blogger Todd Zywicki’s endorsement of [yet another blog‘s mention of] nonprofit "reforms" described in a National Law Journal article, particularly the notion that charity Boards should focus more on governance and less on fundraising.

Like any good game of Telephone, though, this rondelay takes a phoneme selected almost at random and identifies it as the central message.  Here, a reference in the Law Journal article to a single nonprofit which created a small governing Board (read: Executive Committee) at the center of a larger Board concerned primarily with fundraising became in Zywicki’s report a general recommendation to create "greater separation of governance from fundraising so that board
members are appointed for their expertise and engagement on governance,
not merely as a reward for their largesse," which Teles in turn converted to a proposal to legislate Board membership by expertise, leading him to ask why a self-styled libertarian like Zywicki wants to dictate an invariable format for nonprofit governance, an activity particularly likely to be benefited by a multiplicity of approaches; to which a relative of the Nonprofiteer’s replies:

Of course, Teles’s puzzle is no puzzle at all; libertarians almost
always want organizations alternative to for-profit entities to work
worse, because they fear them as allies of the left. 

True, and Zywicki’s suggestion-masquerading-as-quotation would indeed cause charities to work less well.  But no one is actually proposing to require it by law.  No one except Zywicki is even arguing that expertise should trump generosity in selection of Board members, though since he does so it’s a good thing Teles is around to point out how badly such a preference would serve many nonprofits.

The Nonprofiteer’s own reaction is more simple-minded: the one thing nonprofits already have plenty of is expert advice.  Even established philanthropies–institutions organized precisely for the purpose of distributing cash–would much rather scatter advice than largesse to the charities in their thrall.  Meanwhile, the said charities barely have a pot to piss in, much less a pot of gold.

So a proposal to give pride of place on nonprofit Boards to expertise rather than fund-giving and -raising is actually a proposal to starve nonprofits to death.  That, rather than any legislative Final Solution, is the real threat to the sector (and all of us Red-diaper babies who work in it).


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One Response to “Commenting on a comment about a comment provoked by a comment: Infinite regress on nonprofit governance”

  1. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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