Archive for December 12th, 2011

December 12, 2011

Does U.S. Really Need More Nonprofits?

Calling All Boomers: Don’t Start More Nonprofits

Huh? Someone actually thinks it’s a bad idea for inspired Boomers to independently do good?

Well, that’s what’s implied by the headline from a provocative op-ed piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy last month. The article was written by Mark Rosenman, Director of Caring to Change, a project that seeks to improve how grant making serves the public. Rosenman was reacting to a study by Civic Ventures that found that more than 12 million Americans from 44 to 70 years old would like to start nonprofits or businesses that solve social problems. The article has received a great deal of attention at The Chronicle’s website and in a number of Groups at LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, Rosenman misses the major point of the study.

Unlike Rosenman, I find it exciting that 12 million citizens want to create socially responsible nonprofit organizations or businesses. This spirit of optimism, entrepreneurialism, and civic engagement should be applauded. Instead, Rosenman chastises these noble Americans for being “ill-advised and [having] self-centered ambition….”

The creation of nonprofit organizations and socially-responsible businesses is inherently democratic. By contrast, Rosenman’s call is, at best elitist. I am always gravely suspicious when someone in the establishment wants to shut the door to fresh, independent thinking and new organizations.

I reached out to Rosenman privately via his Caring to Change website. I haven’t received a response. Is Rosenman too elitist to answer some specific questions from someone who disagrees with much of what he has written? Perhaps. However, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk up the lack of response to a technology glitch or simple oversight.

My first question for Rosenman was: Are you opposed to the creation of any new nonprofit organizations or just millions of them? How many new nonprofit organizations would be “safe” to create over the next five or 10 years? The headline from his op-ed piece implies he’s opposed to the creation of any new nonprofit organizations. If that’s not the case, he certainly has not stated how many new organizations he would deem acceptable.

Rosenman also failed to respond to my second question: I noticed that the Caring to Change project received funding from at least two “new” nonprofits, foundations created in the 1990s. For someone who speaks out against the creation of new nonprofits, is that not a bit hypocritical? Since I have no response from Rosenman, I’ll answer the question myself: YES!

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