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Why Can't We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume?

Shauna Nep

Outdated views about how charities should operate are killing their to make progress against our most pressing problems. The public is obsessed with restrictions—like nonprofits shouldn't pay executives too much, or all donated funds must go directly to the cause. It's time to change this. We should be asking what these organizations need to actually solve problems.. i.e.: pay competitive wages for great talent, spend big bucks on advertising to attract more support, etc.

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  • Vanessa Kachadurian

    Some groups should not be allowed a non profit 503 c status. Have you ever checked out the salaries of administrators or executive directors of thes so called non profits? Especially international adoption agencies, some rake in over $2 million in revenue a year, some board members get a salary as well. You can check out 990 tax returns for free at http://

  • Jen Chiou

    Not really any big new ideas here for folks in the social entrepreneurship space, but I like how they clearly articulate the challenges 501(c)3s face. I think the question of nonprofit salaries is a really interesting one-- ultimately I don't think nonprofits can/should compete with for-profits on salary alone, since there are other benefits to working at a nonprofit. Truly competitive salaries are likely not realistic nor necessarily desirable-- but the levels need to be comparable enough that the full package (including less quantifiable benefits) that a nonprofit can provide is competitive

    • Shauna Nep

      Right. And I think keeping talent isn't necessarily about the package. Other unnecessary restrictions that society places on nonprofits – like spending as close to 100% as possible on the actual cause (which is neither realistic nor beneficial in the long term) – can be more damaging to the org. And then talent ends up leaving because with no ability to grow, there is little success and thus little fulfillment. I think that's often what folks are after when they work for a cause they believe in – fulfillment, and real, tangible results.