TED Conversations

Caroline Avakian

Founder & CEO - SourceRise, Trickle Up Program

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What can people who work, support or care about the social sector do to help educate others on more effective ways to measure impact?

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend -- not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world.


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    Mar 23 2013: First of all, Dan Pallotta is lobbying for an idea that makes little sense to a vast majority, though it might make sense to some who make charitable contributions for the purpose of getting tax credits.

    Too many charities are nothing more than jobs programs. When I make a charitable contribution, I do so because of a specific cause that I believe in. Jobs for staff, lobbyists like Dan Pallotta, and commissioned telemarketers and the like, are not part of any cause that I believe in. Dan Pallotta was lobbying for a raise in his own pay, using TED as its platform - while speaking to those wealthy individuals and corporate leaders who prefer tax credits over actual charitable works.

    Dan Pallotta is dead wrong about the way HE thinks about charity.
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      Mar 23 2013: Well, whether we fully agree with Mr. Pallotta's idea or not, I think the greater point that I see here is that judging a nonprofit's efficacy by the size of their overhead costs is all wrong. I think many would like the conversation to turn towards measuring the real impact of programs from a monitoring and evaluation perspective vs. relying on overhead to program ratios to tell us a story of impact. Not to mention that different organizations need to have different cost structures in place in order to achieve their particular mission. I think we'll always look to nonprofits to be financially accountable and transparent, and I believe that is very important for the overall health of the sector, but I do think regardless of how we feel about Mr. Pallotta's argument, it's important to note that he has opened up an important discussion about examining the way we rate nonprofits and think about creating real impact.
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        Mar 23 2013: I don't see the importance of his discussion in so far as it relates to discarding cost structure as a measure of a charity's worthiness. In fact, money itself shouldn't be the focus of charity at all. Money is the problem, not the solution.
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        Mar 23 2013: CauseSMART doesn't seem to have a web site. Though I do find a "LinkedIn" listing for you and that tells me about CauseSMART, that is described as a boutique strategic communications consulting firm helping mission-driven organizations, social entrepreneurs and other organizations activate their vision, ideas and creativity into powerful brands that inspire and connect.

        Of course you want me to disregard how much a charity pays you for your consulting services. If I were in your shoes, I'd want it too.

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