Dan Pallotta created two huge charity initiatives — AIDS Rides bicycle journeys and Breast Cancer 3-Day events. These initiatives raised $108 million for HIV/AIDS and $194 million for breast cancer. Both had their best years in 2002 … and then Pallotta’s nonprofit went out of business.
In the final session of TED2013, Pallotta shares why that happened: Major sponsors pulled out following a slew of bad press over the idea that his organization was investing 40% of their gross into recruitment and customer service. The backlash came from our basic — and wrong — cultural understanding of charity.
“What we know about charity and the nonprofit sector is undermining the causes we believe in and our desire to change the world,” says Pallotta. We expect businesses and nonprofits to use “two separate rulebooks,” he suggests.
“Business will move the mass of humanity forward, but will always leave behind that 10% of the most disadvantaged and unlucky,” he says — which is why we need philanthropy and nonprofits. But couldn’t the nonprofit sector use the same strategies as the business world to grow their profits and give more money to the needy? After all, says Pallotta, “How do you monetize the prevention of violence against women?”
The nonprofit sector as we know it isn’t working. In the United States, poverty has been stuck at 12% for the last 40 years. Homelessness has not been solved in any major city, and we have no cure for cancer.