Fundraising and campaigning (part 5)

I’ve been looking at the analogies between nonprofit fundraising and political campaigning, and asked previously if nonprofits are the House of Representatives of the social sector while foundations are the Senate – patrician, not proportionally representative, lots of tradition, have to be rich to get in.

One of the reasons I made this distinction is that Congresspeople have to campaign all the time because they’re elected every two years vs. six in the Senate. Shows you what I know: Senators are constantly dialing for dollars too. This George Packer article in the New Yorker is worth the read, a behind-the-scenes look at the dysfunction of the Senate.¬†As much as the rules of filibuster and cloture and other made-up-sounding words drive people up a tree, Packer concludes that it’s not the rules and procedures that screw up the Senate, “it’s the human beings” in it. Food for thought in looking at the foundation sector, with its payout levels and admin ratios and other made-up-sounding phrases.

Apparently a few visionary Senators in the sixties and seventies were able to band together and actually get things done: Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, etc. Then a new crop of hardliners dragged the institution back down again. In the current political climate, it’s hard to recall what a big deal the two legislative achievements of the year, health-care reform and financial reform, really are. But Packer sees them as a brief interregnum: “Already, you can feel the Senate slipping back into stagnant waters.”

A few thoughts:

  • I wonder to what extent the Senate’s period of productivity corresponds with mainstream philanthropy’s (Green Revolution, etc.).
  • To what extent did the Establishments in both places overlap and move back and forth?
  • Is there an analog to this more recent spate of Senatorial productivity in philanthropy? Is there a crop of reformers in foundations who can help the sector achieve some big wins?

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2 Responses to “Fundraising and campaigning (part 5)”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Another Brick in the Wall? Says:

    […] would it look like for service and advocacy to not be so separated? As I’ve asked previously, what can fundraisers learn from political campaigners? The tools for breaking down silos are more […]

  2. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » One is the number divided by two Says:

    […] […]

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