Everything old is new again, apparently

Word comes of an amazing and wildly successful new social venture (not a mere boring old charity, mind you) with great metrics:

And for SingleStop’s underwriters [Nonprofiteer’s note: not mere boring old contributors, mind you], these outcomes mean substantial returns: For every $1 invested, the program gives clients $3 in benefits, $4 to $13 in legal counseling, $2 in financial counseling, and $11 in tax credits

reports a swoony article in Slate, which calls the national rollout of the venture “the Google IPO of the nonprofit world.”

So what’s the revolutionary, paradigm-shifting product?

Finding every dollar of government services to which the clients are entitled.

Yes, that’s correct: this idea that will change the way we practice assistance to the poor in this country is to make sure that we actually deliver the assistance to the poor that this country is already committed to providing. Only under a Republican administration could this be hailed as a triumph of private-sector innovation.

It’s a fine idea–we do indeed leave substantial amounts of cash assistance on the table because people are too frightened or proud or confused to apply for it, and it may indeed be necessary to have an outside agency (rather than, say, a government employee) unearth all these goodies, because the said government employee is most likely under pressure to make her agency’s budget stretch as far as possible by disqualifying potential beneficiaries.

But let’s hear no more about how effective the private sector is at providing for the needy, when the biggest idea in private-sector charity turns out to be “slopping more effectively at the public trough.”

One might almost call it non-profiteering.


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