Misplaced Mistrust/Displaced Distrust

Over at PhilanTopic there’s a thoughtful analysis of the press’s role in donor demands that charities spend their money instantly and exclusively on program.  But its attention to the case of the Red Cross and 9/11 suggested something else:

People are making extreme demands for accountability on the charitable sector because they’re getting precisely zero accountability from the government.

The people using our money for something we don’t approve of and didn’t intend aren’t creating blood banks; they’re running a couple of undeclared wars, imprisoning people without trial and torturing them.  And when we ask for reports on how they’re doing–so we can evaluate and assess their effectiveness–they tell us public disclosure would only help the enemy.  Their idea of transparency is hoping we don’t notice they haven’t captured Osama bin Laden yet.   

In other words: the people who betrayed our trust on 9/11 aren’t the ones running the Red Cross.

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3 Responses to “Misplaced Mistrust/Displaced Distrust”

  1. Tom Durso Says:

    I’m hardly a fan of the current administration, but they’re certainly not the first, nor will they be the last, to avoid accountability. I find it hard to believe that because of government cover-ups, we demand our accountability elsewhere, with our nonprofits. Instead I’d look at how much more information is available now. Electronic communication and the explosion of news coverage mean that we’re one flat-panel screen away from seeing what nonprofits are raising money for and firing off an e-mail when we don’t like what we see.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    You’re certainly correct that this isn’t the first feckless leadership this country has ever had, and also that the broader availability of information makes people think they can know things they previously shrugged off as unknowable, or took on faith. But I would argue that this administration’s level of disdain for efforts to hold it to account–from “signing statements” purporting to exempt the President from the law to refusal to respond to subpoenas from a co-equal branch of government–is so different in degree as to be different in kind from its predecessors’, and that citizens are aware of and troubled by it enough that it influences their view of other social institutions.

  3. robert guinto Says:

    Accountability of nonprofits is not at the same level as government. In fact accountability at the government level is much higher than on nonprofits. No government official is paid even close to the $500,000 salary the head of the red cross gets. If they were a government official they would have been fired due to the outrage of people. It is about time that nonprofits be held to the same accountability. If nonprofits do not like it they can stop being 501 C 3’s and go private.

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