Another Brick in the Wall?

Taking a brief break from all-Egypt-all-the-time here on DPQ…

Great piece by my friend Ilyse Hogue in The Nation about what’s behind Wisconsin (and now Ohio, and sadly soon to be others). She makes a powerful point about the unfortunate dichotomy in nonprofits and philanthropy between “service” and “advocacy”:

The nexus of service and advocacy is a powerful place to stand: simultaneously addressing direct needs and advocating for systemic redress of those needs is a winning equation for progressive power….

As a young middle-class adult, my work at the local food bank or homeless shelter was commended. However, I was taught this was charity and completely separate from my political organizing. Each had a place in my life, and each had completely separate stories, peer groups and institutions associated with them.

Even the word “service” is a damaging vestige that artificially separates providers from those seeking assistance.

This is critically important: the dichotomy Ilyse puts her finger on is very real in the nonprofit world and among the foundations that support them. And yet, when Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant looked at 12 high-performing nonprofits (in what the Economist called “one of top 10 best business books of the year,” emphasis added), they found that the “service” organizations discovered that beyond a certain point, rather than expand (or “scale,” in the current parlance), what they needed to do was focus on changing the structural conditions that made their services necessary. Even within the most “mainstream” of texts, the link between service and advocacy – or the falseness of the dichotomy became evident?

What 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 prevalent than ever; let’s get to work…..


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One Response to “Another Brick in the Wall?”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » I’ve Got a Theory Says:

    […] The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" BETA version, new title in the works. New post each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (for now). « Another Brick in the Wall? […]

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