Thursday, May 05, 2005

Accountable to Whom?

Yesterday, opening my emailbox, I was very very pleased to find Hildy Gottlieb's newsletter latest issue. In fact, I was very fond of her Board Accountability: A Model for Community-Driven Governance, because these have been things I've mulled over for a long time.

So, who are nonprofit accountable to?

Many dear ole boys would say donors, of course. That's because they come from the business world, where the ones that have money are The Bosses and where no matter what your convictions are about, you serve the business you are into, or you leave your job. Ethics, unless it belongs to the official business policy, is no business of the worker, that just thinks about feeding his/her family, buying what s/he wants, and the f*ck with the rest of the world. At least, this is the American rendition of the business world.

From this perspective, the donor is the one with money, therefore only s/he has the authority to tell you what s/he wants and you nonprofit worker have but to obey, even when it does not correspond with your idea of serving your community.

Which by the way IS who we are accountable to.

A nonprofit is not about making, generating, managing or distribuiting money in an efficent way. A nonprofit is about doing things that are not-for-profit, that is being involved in providing goods and services that could not be provided (either at all or with that level of money) without donations.

The for-profit paradigm is INSUFFICIENT to determine realms of action of nonprofits. That is precisely the reason for thinking it could be accountable to donors, and comparing donors to stackholders, are Freudian slips witnessing how such world is populated by businessmen and businesswomen trying to lead nonprofits as if it were for-profits, ie: missing the difference BIGTIME.

Besides, such perspective, proported to be a "modern business perspective" is behind the times. In fact, modern businesses are about accountability to CLIENTS.

But the nonprofit world, yet another time, stands still into the eighties, and has a hard time get over those years. Rampant capitalism is over and even poor Mr President Reagan is dead, does it tell you anything NEW???? What about social enterprises and consumerism?

There is no other place so behind times, when it comes to consumerism, like the nonprofit world.

Food banks can distribute expired food to their consumers cause the nonprofit has to save money for the cause... but should it happen that a market did it to clients, its principal could not use the same justification, would be in fact kicked out of business and probably have a lawsuit against him/her. For the same crime, nonprofits will have impunity. This just shows one more time how many modern businesses ARE respective of clients/consumers, while many nonprofits are NOT.

So Hildy's model, gearing accountability into community, is a blast of fresh air in a polluted environment.

For that, thanks a bunch Hildy.


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