RE:Philanthropy wrote this review of Dan Pallotta’s talk to the council on philanthropy, and I just want to shout, “FRABJOUS DAY!”

So tell me, as a fundraiser, would you like a higher salary? Would you like grants to fund your salary so that you can keep this nonprofit afloat, instead of your org looking at you as a necessary evil?

Would you like a larger marketing budget? Would you like a marketing budget, period?

When I read this on the RE:Philanthropy blog, I was floored.

Dan Pallotta, bestselling author of “Uncharitable” and founder of the AIDSRide and 3-Day breast-cancer walk, tells 1,000 foundation representatives that nonprofits should “step boldly” into radically new ways to scale their impact.

His first time to address a large group of philanthropists, Dan Pallotta challenges 1,000 members of the Council on Foundations to shake up the system. How?

“Stop asking about overhead and start asking about impact,” -Dan Pallotta

(what a radical concept!) -Peanut gallery

His own launch of the AIDSRide brought in returns of $108,000,000 in 9 years–that’s 1,982x the original seed grant of $50,000; and that’s the secret to scale. Pallotta tasks philanthropy leaders with finding “the next AIDSRide, the next Newman’s Own, or Product Red. They are out there, right now.”

“Fund fundraising,” he says; invest strategically; use your corpus to try loan guarantees; and and start acting like for-profits in 5 key ways:

  • Offering competitive compensation
  • Spending on advertising & marketing
  • Taking risks to pursue new donors
  • Allowing longer time horizons for outcomes
  • Investing in risk capital for social causes

“We need a venture fundraising movement,” declares Pallotta. With a combined asset base of $1 trillion, U.S. foundations have more power than we realize. “A unified theory of charity is beginning to evolve, and that gives me hope,” he says. It has three components:

  • Funding fundraising
  • Hyper-vetting for effective nonprofits
  • Working together for collective impact


Here’s what I think about funding risktaking. “OF COURSE!” What a good idea!

How about you? What do you think? Are you not allowed to make mistakes in your job? Does it make you feel unable to really make free movements and big changes at your nonprofit?



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