New Structures in Nonprofits: Serving the Public Good?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Philadelphia legal community came up with another creative solution to preserve an historic way of doing things and an important service to the region—The Philadelphia Inquirer.  To ensure this for-profit company’s continued ability to provide news to the region, Gerry Lenfest, then the sole owner of Philadelphia Media Network (owners of The Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News and, created the nonprofit Institute for Journalism in New Media (aka Lenfest Institute) at the Philadelphia Foundation.

The idea, however, is not that Read more

The Crime of Negligence

In 2012, a routine audit of Visit Philadelphia discovered the CFO has been embezzling from the organization for the past seven years, charging personal expenses to the corporate credit card and using corporate checks to pay personal bills,  to the tune of $200,000.  On top of this, the CFO hired her best friend as an independent contractor and was kind enough to share some of the embezzled largess with her bff.  Despite the fact that the CEO of the organization had been unhappy with the Read more

Dirty Money

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When are people going to learn that politics and nonprofits just don’t go together?   It is messy; it even gets ugly.  It complicates things where, truthfully, additional layers of complication don’t need to be added.  Plus, it always raises eyebrows.  And that’s never a good thing.

Recently, The Philadelphia Inquirer did an article on the philanthropy of media and cable giant Comcast.  Dollar-wise, Comcast is a good philanthropist:  according to its own promotion materials, it has given $25 million to charity since its inception Read more

The Frivolous…The Dumb…and the Ugly

The Nonprofit Center was founded in 1981 as part of La Salle University’s School of Business by a businessman and a business academic who were  well ahead of the curve.  Both were steeped in the nonprofit sector and, thus, straddled both worlds.  They saw the need for nonprofits to operate more like businesses, in some areas, and that there were valuable lessons that nonprofits could learn from the for-profit sector.  Hence we landed in the School of Business, a rather atypical place for a Center Read more

Equality is My Co-PILOT

Recently, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer doing a story about the possibility of bringing PILOTs – voluntary “payments in lieu of taxes” made by nonprofits to their local government – back to Philadelphia.  PILOTs in general (and resurrecting them after having let a program lapse, in particular), are not unique to Philadelphia.  In fact, I’ve noted in several posts the correlation between the length of our current economic recession and the popularity of PILOTs:  the longer the recession has gone Read more

Double Standards

A  few weeks ago, Daniel Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a column about a woman who had spent a year tracking all of the charitable solicitations she had received – those she’d given to, those she hadn’t; how many solicitations she received from each; the “giveaways” she had received, etc.  Naturally, she, and many of the readers of Rubin’s column expressed dismay over the volume of solicitations received and, more importantly, the money that nonprofits were “wasting” sending out all of these requests for Read more

Life in 140 Characters

When I was growing up, we had a vacation home on the Potomac River, right outside of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We used the house primarily for weekends throughout the course of the year, with a bit more time during school holidays.  One of the first things we did as we drove into town on the way to our house was to stop and buy the current edition of the Jefferson County local newspaper (The Chronicle and The Shepherdstown Chronicle.

My siblings and I loved reading those papers.  Read more

Crucial time for charities

With the economic downturn staring us in the face, it’s hard to feel charitable even during this season of giving. But this has been a grim year for charities, just as it has for individuals and businesses. So charities are hopefully and anxiously anticipating this crucial period of year-end giving, traditionally fueled by goodwill and the promise of tax deductions.

If you’re wondering how you can afford to give to charity, I would ask how you can afford not to. Nonprofits enrich us with a wide Read more

Viability at any age

 Locally, the news is out:  thanks to Chris Hepp, a The Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, news of our recent economic impact survey of Delaware Valley nonprofits hit the streets this week.  From Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s office to an astute board president to folks just wanting to know more, it’s getting attention.  I just hope it isn’t too late! 

Why would I say such a thing?  Because I am worried.  One of the most troublesome outcomes of our survey is the revelation that the Read more

Passing the Smell Test


What makes a nonprofit a nonprofit?  There are so many ways that people answer this question, most of which are incorrect.  There is, however, little argument that for many, it is the IRS 501(c)(3)designation is the determinant. Technically speaking, I’d agree:  IRS approval  is essential in  announcing yourself as a nonprofit.  But does that really make a nonprofit a nonprofit? I’d have to say no.  All it means is that you have passed the paper review by the IRS.  Theoretically, in Read more