Via Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter:
The continued blurring of distinctions between nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental activity is likely to affect the practice of philanthropy as well as teaching about it. And, the blurring may also require a rethinking of what it means to grant tax-exempt status for social benefit. That's according to commentators from the online publication onPhilanthropy.com, two of whom blogged from the recent Clinton Global Initiative conference. In a Sept. 25 wrap-up post, onPhilanthropy.com's publisher Tom Watson said the blurring that was evident at CGI was, "part of a discernible trend in 'philanthropy' – that is to say, the rapid deconstruction of the accepted term." It's a trend that Watson says raises questions about oversight of such activities and suggests there may be a need to reconsider how we view tax-exempt status in the U.S. as well as "the legal strictures on American foundations." Along the same lines, in her Sept. 20 column, onPhilanthropy.com's Chief Analyst Susan Raymond wrote that "the end of definitions" brought on by a merging of commercial and nonprofit activity has immediate and concrete implications for the U.S. tax code. While it has benefited society to offer nonprofits and foundations nearly complete freedom in operations with their tax-exempt status, Raymond asks: "If we no longer know what we mean by the term 'nonprofit' or 'foundation' or 'philanthropy,' how will we continue to make these distinctions? Does the distinction even matter any more?"
Yes, the distinction does matter. Some give; some game. Gaming philanthropy for the buzz of virtue and prestige, in order to bolster a second and self-serving bottom financial line is not philanthropy, it is something else - hyped up business. Social venture opportunism. It is not a good thing, necessarily. We don't need philanthropy, nor much democracy either, because hyped up business will take care of everything. That is what Candidia tells me. I am not one to object. As onPhilanthropy is sponsored by any number of fine firms and foundations, so Gifthub is sponsored by the fabulously wealthy Candidia Cruikshanks, her firm (Wealth Bondage) and her foundation, Rooster Foundation: Crowing in a New American Century. As a citizen, I find Wealth Bondage comfortable. As a good employee of Gifthub, I, as my patron strides in her boots down the red carpet on the arm of a Past President, am pleased to sound the trumpet like a herald announcing the entrance of a Queen and her Most Loyal Retainer. Their mating across sectors will produce progeny as yet unimaginable, omens perhaps of the Rapture.
Of course there will always be naysayers among us, the losers like my buck-naked friend, the Happy Tutor who calls out, as the crowd at the social venture convention leaves the hall, "My fellow citizens, Beware the hype. Jesus rode into town on a donkey, met with faint applause, and died on the cross, tortured on trumped up charges as a suspected enemy noncombatant by the forces of Empire Security. Giving is about self sacrifice for the greater good, whether you give blood, money or your time or your life. Give, you selfish, conceited, coxcombs, or call it something other than giving." Well, as I said, opinions differ. Whatever you want to call philanthropy, Mistress Candidia, is fine with me as you long as you keep the money and preferment coming my way. It is all good.