Should philanthropies operate like businesses?

One of the main goals of NCR's Mission Management column created by our dear friend Joe Feuerherd, publisher and editor-in-chief of the National Catholic Reporter from 2008 until his death earlier this year, is to highlight best practices and ideas that, when well-executed, change peoples' lives. Since 2009, as the lead writer for this column and with the considerable help of NCR colleagues, friends and readers, I have been able to scour the country and identify good examples of mission management in action.

One of the perennial tension points in the not-for-profit space continues to be the issue of how much a charity, including parishes and dioceses, should be run like a business and whether a business model is, in fact, an applicable model for charities. Much has been written on this topic by academics, philanthropists, business executives and charity managers.

The Wall Street Journal today has a section dedicated to this precise issue. It is presented in a point/counterpoint format. Charles R. Bronfman and Jeffrey R. Solomon, chairman and president, respectively, of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, favor businesslike thinking. Michael Edwards, a distinguished senior fellow at Demos, a social issues think-tank, argues that social values should take precedence.

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I recommend this article to all those who interact with charities from whatever vantage point.


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