Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trusting the nonprofit.

I just started reading today's transcript from The Chronicle that discusses finance. The first question mentioned Dan Pallotta. Who is this guy? He published a book called "Uncharitable"? Now my ADD must click over to his blog. And he is commenting on something we all read recently; that a Boston Foundation is going to make operating grants. Operating grants! He was in as much disbelief as I was. A foundation was trusting that the people who work at nonprofits know what they need and where they should spend their money. No restrictions. Larger awards. Extended timelines. Wow.

Why does this matter to me? Well, in a past life, I worked at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. It's a wonderful little non-collecting museum that relies on donations, grants and begging (like every arts nonprofit). I remember the development and education directors applying for a grant from a company that had ties to the medical community. The museum could get the grant if it was spent on a project approved by the company (it had to be medically-related). So like any nonprofit that needs money, they wrote the grant and added this program to the rest of their programs.

Now they had to staff and manage something that wasn't in the original gameplan. All in the hopes that the project would gain a little more funding or help the bottom line.

How does a medical company know more about contemporary art than the educators, directors and curators that work there? They don't. But they call the shots. How frustrating! And it happens all the time. "This grant may not be used for administrative purposes." "This grant may not be used to purchase capital items."

Let us hope that other foundations and grantmakers will take note and do what is right for the organizations- let the nonprofits do what is necessary to be sustainable. Respect them for their expertise and stop treating them like people "who couldn't make it in the 'real' world."

And now...back to the transcript.

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