Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential
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Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Uncharitable goes where no other book on the nonprofit sector has dared to tread. Where other texts suggest ways to optimize performance inside the existing paradigm, Uncharitable suggests that the paradigm itself is the problem and calls into question our fundamental canons about charity. Author Dan Pallotta argues that society's nonprofit ethic acts as a strict regulator...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Tufts University (first published September 15th 2008)
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Eric
This books main points is that charities need to be able to act like for-profit companies in some respects in order to maximize their effectiveness as a charity. The author has six main points. 1. Charities can not compensate their employees properly and therefore can not attract top talent. 2. Charities are not able to take calculated risks because if they fail it is perceived as an unacceptable use of money that could have gone to the needy. 3. There is little long-term planning because charit...more
Whitney
Let's just say there were things I liked about it and things I didn't like. I've been working in the non profit sector for almost 5 years now, and feel like our organization has very talented people who are committed enough to the cause to stay for the long haul.

I agree it's tougher to keep top managment in place at a salary that CEOs in the corporate world would laugh at, but there are some great ones out there, that are willing put aside their own wants and desires for the greater good of hu...more
Brian
I found this book pretty infuriating. It's mostly a rant about how unfairly the author was treated when his company, Pallotta TeamWorks, went out of business and how much worse off the world is without it. He makes some valid points about the problems in how the efficiency of non-profits are evaluated, but it's nothing that hasn't been pointed out before, and he offers no solutions except "everyone needs to stop doing this." He reiterates the same points again and again, page after page. He had...more
Hans
There is a lot of passion in this book (and clearly some anger and disappointment that seems well-earned).

My nearly 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector tells me that the author clearly identifies some key problems and has a good line on the source of the problems. The solutions don't feel as fully formed, but that simply means that there is more work to do.
Jean
Our CEO encouraged us to read this book and then led a lunch and learn for the staff about it. Dan is carrying a big cross for change. He thinks non profits will never be truly successful (asking questions like do you want to continue to give money to end world hunger or do you want to end world hunger?). He believes that non profits will only be successful if allowed the same rights and freedoms as the for profit world. He leaves me wondering if our country has the desire, the will and the stic...more
Sandra Sims
This book is a must read for anyone working or volunteering for charitable causes. His TED talk is along the same lines as the keynote that I heard him give at the 2010 DMA Nonprofit conference and serves as a good introduction to the topic:
http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta...

Pallotta creates a well researched and defended position on how success is hampered by risk-averse culture that often exists at charitable organizations. I have worked in the nonprofit sector for several years and know...more
Gregory Stuart
Sep 20, 2012 Gregory Stuart rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Social entrepreneurs
Recommended to Gregory by: Barnes & Noble display
Brilliant treatise on how the tools of capitalism could be better used to make a difference in society if our misguided Puritanical values were set aside for new, modern values, allowing people - and organizations - who are committed to social change to make a living while working for social change. Mr. Pallotta describes how governmental and societal restrictions on nonprofits hamper their ability to make a difference on a large scale, all because of antiquated Puritanical values, of which most...more
Victoria Wolfe
This book offers a different perspective for non-profit organizations. Why should non-profits sacrifice salaries and modern technologies because of old-fashioned notions about nonprofit staff "should" be working for the sheer love of the work; to help others and not make money; to sacrifice the living wage as if your willingness to sacrifice such will help the bottom line? It's a sure recipe for failure for many smaller businesses doing great and important work: overwork, stress, burnout, quit,...more
Molly
Didn't love this book. It might be because I felt constantly insulted by Pallotta's view of the charitable sector:

"The system is oppressive. Threatened by any possibility of real change, it suppresses discourse. It intimidates with a moral stick. It discourages thought, inquiry, truth and possibility. This is doubly dangerous, because nonprofit are supposed to be society's agents of change. Instead, they are coerced into a kind of servitude to the status quo" (p. 17).

He's pretty bleak about the...more
Cheryl
At times, I felt this was a difficult book to read. The author is passionate about the subject and early on I felt he was argumentative and generalizing. However, I also felt that a lot of what the author had to say was very inciteful and points out another way to examine some of our common cultural assumptions.

How much of my donation goes to the charitable purpose versus overhead or administration?

We have all come to accept this as a standard for us to judge our giving. But shouldn't we be loo...more
Matt
A very long-winded critique of the limits and constraints placed upon non-profits by donors as well as the court of public opinion. The most interesting part is the HBS case study on the rise and fall of Polatta Team Works, the author’s for-profit fundraiser that netted over $300 million in unrestricted funds for AIDS treatment, breast cancer research, and several other causes over the course of 7 or 8 years and then went bankrupt as public scrutiny over efficiency rates - % of raised dollars sp...more
Anna
This book is controversial, and I can see why. I think the author has some very good points, and the discussion he's trying to start could be extremely useful for the non-profit community.

The book is fairly repetitive -- you might prefer to watch the Ted Talk.

The author does something that always bothers me, which is to assume the science and engineering are the same thing. In my opinion, his message is still completely valid, but it makes me cringe when people assume that if they just raise en...more
Lisa
Pallotta has some really interesting ideas, and I agree with most of what he says. The nonprofit world needs a makeover, and there is no reason that capitalism can't be used to improve the lives of others.

Pallotta makes a great argument against using overhead spending as a measure of nonprofit efficiency and effectiveness. The fallout from the battle to spend less on overhead plagued me during my tenure in the nonprofit world, and is ultimately what pushed me into the for-profit world.

I have two...more
Kathy
While Pallotta makes a good point that it is an uphill battle to try to solve the issues of capitalism without using the tools of capitalism, it is also true that some nonprofits do not believe in reinforcing using the tools of capitalism. I am left with a number of questions about Pallotta's proposed for-profit model. For example, I am unsure of what Pallotta sees as the solution for where the money will actually come from, and what a non-profit "stock market" might look like. However, I do agr...more
Wardegus
I couldn't finish this book. I was so excited about the premise and even appreciated the historical background on giving to charity. But Pallotta becomes whiny when he frequently repeats the notion that non-profit personnel aren't paid enough. He started something that has worked for a lot of charities but it's not sustainable fundraising. I read nothing about having the people participating in the events, turn into major donors or form a lasting relationship with the non-profits.

Eventually, hi...more
Katherine
Feb 11, 2010 Katherine rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: all nonprofit employees
Recommended to Katherine by: YNPN Book Club
I really did enjoy this book - the first chapter was a bit tedious and long, I think the history of Puritans ideology influencing nonprofit ideology could have been spent explaining in less pages for sure. However, once you got through that, I was surprise to read so many points that resonated with my work in the nonprofit sector. I think he brings up a lot of non-discussed issues in the civil society sector, which is very prominent in our culture and we devalue our work, without noticing. I thi...more
Janelle
This is great for all my do-gooder friends and those of you working for or looking to work for a nonprofit and even those of you who believe that nonprofit organizations do not and should not operate similarly to corporations and for-profit organizations. This book recognizes the restraints and stereotypes of nonprofit organizations and urges readers to re-think their views on nonprofits and charities. These organizations need the same talent that for-profit corporations desire to do the job wel...more
Phil
Pallotta offers an interesting model for the nonprofit /not-for-profit world - make a profit!!! Hun? Actually, the point is that what he rfers to as nonprofits are really charities (not including associations, etc.)don't have to be small, meek and humble, with low overheads. The model he proposes is one in which a lot of cash flows through the organization, some sticks as profit, but even more sticks to fund the charitable mission. However, his own approach to it only worked for a short time the...more
Claire
An absolute must read for anyone who works for a non-profit, volunteers with a non-profit or donates to a non-profit!

Turning prevailing thoughts about charity on its head - including the oh so useless admin/program ratio as a means of evaluating a charity, charity salaries etc.....and suggests how we can change the world faster if we let go of these beliefs and allow charities to operate the way we allow all other kinds of organizations!

Really inspiring...especially love the quick simply put exa...more
Angie
This author seemed to think that making the same 3 points over and over under different chapter headings was the same as writing a book. I'm looking to get in to the non-profit space, so I'm a sympathetic reader, and I just couldn't get through this book. The author came off as whiny and tantrum-y rather than as the harbinger of an important message about the problems with the current philanthropic system (which are real).
Courtney
I know there's no such thing as a truly original idea, but this book made me think about the role of nonprofits in a different way than I had been. Even if you don't think Pallotta's solutions are feasible, this book really points out why nonprofits operate in the way that they do and why we need to shake off the current way of thinking that keeps us from being as effective as we could be.
Susan
I was very interested to read this book based on reading some of Dan's blog and articles about his book. While I agree to a certain extent that nonprofits need to spend more on infrastructure, technology, and staff development, I feel he wants to swing the pendulum too far from where the current donor sentiment is. More investment in infrastructure, yes, but that is not the only answer.
Steve
This was one of the better business books that I have read recently. The author presents an argument for why charities can't truly succeed. Whereas a few arguments would receive a "yeah, but..." from me, most of his logic made sense and pointed out the serious flaws that nonprofit organizations face in trying to become successful.
Rowan
Makes some excellent points about the damning legacy of puritain psychology on the nonprofit sector and suggests that nonprofits be free to maximize their impact by retaining top-level talent and paying for it.

A bit too self-assured and a bit repetitive, but worth reading the first half of the book.
Mary
Very thought-provoking, with ideas that should be considered by anyone who works for or with non-profit organizations--and that's almost everyone. The writing is lackluster and repetitive, but his ideas for helping our society to think about non-profits differently are very important.
Cynthia
Uncharitable proposes a new model for evaluating the effectiveness of non-profits. In short, it asks, "Do we want to encourage individuals to feel altruistic or do we want to cure cancer/AIDS/homelessness/etc.?" An important book; I wish I could buy it for everyone I know.
Miranda
Refreshing point of view, and one gaining more acceptance. Data, data, data, data, data, data, does it work? As a VISTA I totally hear the message on the wage gap (that doing well/good is mutually exclusive.) Although ... I didn't finish it because it rehashed quite a bit.
Audrey
really appreciate this kind of perspective in regards to how we should all think about charitable giving. the historical background of how we got to this thinking was interesting as well. the TED Talk he gave is just a glimer into this book. brilliant!
Troy
The author has an interesting (and possibly correct) thesis, but his support/argument is unfocused. It's not entirely clear who he's trying to persuade and, therefore, he ends up not being very persuasive.
Kristen
I really love and am inspired by Dan's ideas for ways the social sector can grow but I feel I should caution people to some of the repetitive passages in the book.
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Dan Pallotta Speaking at USC 4/21/09 1 4 Apr 21, 2009 02:46PM  
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Dan Pallotta (born 1961) is an American entrepreneur, author, and humanitarian activist.
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