Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

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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Everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, says AIDS Ride founder Dan Pallotta. He aims to transform the way society thinks about charity and giving and change.

Why you should listen

“The nonprofit sector is critical to our dream of changing the world. Yet there is no greater injustice than the double standard that exists between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. One gets to feast on marketing, risk-taking, capital and financial incentive, the other is sentenced to begging,” Dan Pallotta says in discussing his book Charity Case. This economic starvation of our nonprofits is why he believes we are not moving the needle on great social problems. “My goal … is to fundamentally transform the way the public thinks about charity within 10 years.”

Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry, and a new generation of philanthropists with the AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Day events, which raised $582 million in nine years. He is president of Advertising for Humanity, which helps foundations and philanthropists transform the growth potential of their favorite grantees. He is also the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council.

What others say

“He liberates charity from its Puritan constraints and cogently attaches it to entrepreneurship.” — Gary Hart

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Analyst and lecturer of Middle East politics, security and new media, he has also a significant experience as consultant on strategic communication for NGOs and communication agencies. From 2003 to 2010 he has co-ordinated the research unit on politics and security in the Muslim World of Italy’s main private news agency, Aki - Adnkronos International. He has published numerous journalistic articles, video reports and academic essays about Middle Eastern politics and the production of Islamic discourse on the Internet. Ermete Mariani holds a master degree in Arabic Language and Civilization from the University of Venice, and Comparative Politics of the Arab and Muslim World from the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.