Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on Non-Profit Philosophy

So I read a debate in the Wall Street Journal today and wanted to write about it. Seemed like a Blog was an appropriate venue. The debate is found in the November 28 WSJ in the Journal Report section. Essentially, the debate centers on whether business-model practices should be used in the administration of Non-profit organizations. A link to the debate should be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204554204577024313200627678.html?KEYWORDS=should+philanthropies

Here are my musings:

             The Monday November 28th edition of the Wall Street Journal included a debate between proponents and opponents of business-minded philanthropy. The pieces were interesting, if not particularly sublime. Both Mr. Edwards and Mssrs. Bronfman and Solomon seemed to argue from two sides of the same coin. This, as opposed to a pure dichotomous debate, diluted both arguments. The deficiency seems to have come from a sort of confusion of terms. Bronfman and Solomon advocated for a reasoned approach to management of non-profit funds based upon business models while Edwards dismissed this approach as inappropriate for the philanthropic world. Their respective arguments seemed to boil down to “It makes good sense to use good sense” and “this is charity, not a business.” Granted , the fundamental difference between the positions is based upon each parties’  belief of the effect business-model philanthropy will have on actual charity.
                The arguments become deficient though when we realize they weren’t arguing on a point by point basis. The sides were not arguing for dependency on or rejection of business principles in philanthropy. Rather, they were arguing for the place business principles should occupy. It’s a subtle difference, but one worth reflection. This is because business principles are not meant to be the thrust of a charity, but rather a tool for the effective administration of a non-profit. Bronfman and Solomon concede as much by the only real-world cite they make. The Robin Hood Foundation in New York uses business analysis to inform their decisions but only as a tool as they make “qualitative decisions.” Additional tools include the “experience of managers in the field” to best spend the limited supply of money the charity has. Edwards contends that allowing business analysis  to pervade the non-profit sector will result in less money getting to those who actually need it and, what’s worse, diluting the social change point of charity.
                The problem with this debate is that each party is arguing over different functions. The pro-business side is advocating for the pervasive use of a rational tool to encourage growth in the sector. The traditional side is advocating limitations on the business approach because it will dilute the social thrust of charity. It’s the difference between philosophy and practicality. Both are necessary, but are best used in their proper place. Non-profits should seek to act in the most rationale way to most effectively use their limited resources, but they should do so in a subjective way. Sometimes it will be better to feed more people and sometimes it will be better to feed less people better. Either way, we want to feed the most people the best that we can. Non-profit leadership, in essence, must use the tools at their disposal without losing the plot. That is to say, Business flavored management must be seen as a tool to be used in the pursuit of the organizational goal of better lives for people who really need the help. Mr. Bronfman and Solomon fail to offer a compelling business-minded philosophy and Mr. Edwards fails to express anything other than philosophy. It’s a confusion of terms.
                The real problem is a lack of upper-level non-profit management talent. The lack of sharpness of each side’s points indicates that we don’t have leadership that can simultaneously understand the philosophy of giving and the effective way to give. What we need are leaders that can understand both. What we need are leaders who understand that when there isn’t enough money in the coffers, they need to spend more time and energy to make up the difference. In pursuit of the good life, if your garage door opener breaks and you don’t have the money for a repairman, you fix it yourself. Essentially, we need leaders who are fired by passion and grounded in good sense. We need talent that is passionate and intelligent. We need leaders who understand sacrifice and blessing. When our society trains leaders like that, then we will truly on the path to the social changes we so desire. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jack Kynion I

It's very difficult to find the words that express the true value of a life when you are speaking of a specific life. How can you quantify, extrapolate, even describe the value of one man's life? We compose eulogies and we deliver remembrances, we find any way we can to try and tell whoever will listen what they missed out on in that person.
My grandfather was a good man. In this context, I believe good is actually better than great. Great men carry the connotations of leader of men, conqueror, reformer, genius...All things on their face that are good but never explain the rest of the intangibles that truly defined the person. Is a man of little moral ethic but great standing politically a better man than a good man with no power? Surely not.
My grandfather was a good man. He spent sixty years devoted to his wife. At his passing to glory he was still holding her hand. After sixty years! There is great difficulty in describing him, in capturing his essence in memory because he was such a complete man. He worked hard and saved and provided and wanted very little for himself but rather desired to bless others. He was even tempered and stern, discerning the difference between defensiveness and righteous, helpful admonishment. He was brave of heart and honest in tongue. He said what he meant and meant what he said. He was cheerful and charming, strong and loving. He had an uncanny intuition and an even more impressive understanding of discretion never allowing only his awareness to plunge himself too far forward. He enjoyed life but enjoyed the people in life more. He built his own house, mowed his own pasture, took care of his family, asked for very little and lived quite selflessly.
My grandfather was a good man. He managed to navigate life on the narrow path. Perhaps that is what's meant by the narrow path. Somehow managing the competing emotions in a given situation. We want to be righteous but not without love. We want to be holy but not without grace. We desire justice but not without mercy. We want to be well liked but not consumed by approval. We want to be humble but still understand our true value. We want to be stalwart in the face of fear and gentle, pliable in the face of pain. There is hope in the Lord and there is peace and everyonce in awhile the Lord blesses us with tangible, breathing manifestation of his standards. Every now and again he gives us an example that is actually worthy of our imitation. In my case, I have had an example for 23 years and I am honored beyond words to share his name.
My grandfather was a good man.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

It occurred to me that perhaps my show of emotion, or better said, affection is sometimes reserved. My intentions seem unclear and my actions become confusing. In an effort to ameliorate these conditions, I've composed a somewhat brief synopsis of how I feel about what most people understand to be my church. We, for the sake of precision, shall call them my church family and community. Please understand my presentation will be somewhat sloppy as I tried to be strictly stream of consciousness when writing in order to facilitate the expression of honest feelings, thoughts, and emotions. I sit, now, lump in my throat, bleary-eyed, thankful for this congregation.

As I am nearly overcome by emotion, raw, and joy, inexpressible, I think how wonderful.

How wonderful is the Lord. How wonderful is his spirit. How wonderful is his grace and his plan and his love and his

everything. How wonderful is his forgiveness and patience. How wonderful is his rod and discipline. How wonderful is the

way that he moves in our lives. Oh that we could recognize the ways he moves. Through people and scenery, through pain and

elation, through sorrow and triumph, in rain in snow in sun in breeze. In language, in touch, in our hearts and our spirits

and our souls. In our understanding, our almost understanding, and our no idea what this is, how to explain it or where it

came from kind of understanding.

Bless his name for giving us others. He has given each one of us to one another, his children for his children.

I think back on the past year and wonder what it is that has kept me around the idea of my community. Why has it not floated

like bread on the waters, to sink and not return? I believe it is because of the people and the people are because of the


The congregation at KL is one mass of beauty. If you neglect beauty you go crazy. As Chesterton pointed out, it's not the

people given to myth that lose their minds; it's the people obsessed with rationality. If you need beauty, I invite you to

go be a part of the lives of the Blakes, and Simons, and Weltons, and Bernard, and Jeremy, and Jess, and Kait, and a dozen more. A beautiful and strong people, given much cause for capitulation and committed to

never surrendering. Strong, loving, caring, kind, hopeful, committed, intelligent, passionate, useful, helpful, insightful with the internal fortitude to live beyond momentary inspiration.

I sit here and I wonder what I would do without them. What my life would look like without them, what it would feel like. It

would be bleak, but not for lack of pleasure. It would be sad, but not for lack of happiness and distraction. It would be

empty but not for lack of things. Eric once told me a story from when he was in Israel. He saw men at the wailing wall, dancing

singing, celebrating. He thought it was interesting but confusing. Rabbi apparently dispelled the confusion. He said (paraphrasing)

: They don't celebrate on finite terms, their perspective is not earth bound. They have an eternal perspective. Joy is an

eternal perspective.

If there is one thing I can say about Kingdom Living people, it's that they possess an eternal perspective. Never, in my few

short days, have I known people to possess such a perspective. It dictates the goodness in their lives. I don't think you

understand. It dictates the GOODNESS in their lives. Goodness, not an apple pie nice summer evening calm. Goodness not a

gracious gesture. Goodness - lives worthy of envy. For all that we do and disagree, we still believe that some things are

good. We see someone get a job that needs to provide. Regardless of the job, we say that this is good because it is. It

requires no rationale, no motivation. It requires no socially positive consequence, it requires no move up any ladder. It

need not be justified, it need not be explained. Much like I know that I know that I know that He lives, I also understand

that some things are good because they are good because they are good.

Goodness is the embodiment of that sentiment in words, actions, deeds, etc... Goodness is all heart, all love, all humility,

all grace, all thins THAT ARE GOOD. It is a trite explanation, it is redundant, but "It should be reflected on with all energy

and focus," I scream in my mind.

God bless this community, this family that so exudes goodness, that so loves, that so supports, that so lives.

God bless them. Let their fire burn brightly and spread. A fire that does not spark brilliantly and go out like a firework,

not a fire that smoulders and lets off smoke that keeps the people that need the warmth away, and not a fire that is always

on the precipice of flame but can't quite ignite. Rather, the fire that burns hot, that is supported by searing coals of

belief, that exhibits huge sustained flames of goodness, love, and compassion, and is all supported by strong ever burning logs

constituting bonds that do not break.