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Monday, August 17, 2009



I had read several reviews of Dan Pallotta’s book, Uncharitable, and had mixed emotions when I purchased the book.  His now defunct company, Pallotta TeamWorks, had raised millions of dollars for several charities via high profile events.  The worthwhile causes, fighting AIDS and breast cancer, received millions of dollars for their programs as a result of the special events conducted by Pallotta TeamWorks, but the company was brought down by criticism of the high cost of raising funds for these groups.

In reality, although the ratios were somewhat high for special event fund raising, the size of the funds generated was exceptional with some groups receiving more than $50 million a year for their projects after costs.

In their well researched and well thought out book, Forces for Good, co-authors Leslie Crutchfield and Heater Grant take issue with the self-styled charity regulators who rate nonprofits primarily on the basis of their efficiency in raising funds while ignoring the effectiveness with which they spend the money raised.  Pallotta also takes issue with these groups, but in a sour, self-serving way that will win no points with those who are open minded on the issue.  This is a book that fell far, far short of its potential.

Although I confess to not reading the entire text, it’s clear from the beginning that Pallotta is bitter and that his book is neither well researched when it comes to history, nor is it charitable to the incredible successes achieved by those who have given their lives to serving others through a nonprofit organization.

The book starts out with a diatribe against religion, especially the Christian religion.  His understanding of Christianity is superficial, at best, his knowledge of history is selective, and his assertions are inconsistent with the facts regarding who gives to charity in the U.S.

I was disappointed in the beginning when he didn’t even mention that the word “charity” means love.  I was further disappointed when he made no reference to Alexis de Tocqueville and his observations of the uniqueness of private charity in the United States.  Pallotta blames Christianity for creating a wrong view toward charity, although it was the church that has been and continues to be the primary source of charity in the United States.  If he had taken the time to read Who Really Cares? by Professor Arthur Brooks, he would have known that Christians are still the primary source of charitable giving in the United States.  This includes all causes, secular and non-secular. 

It’s not that Pallotta doesn’t make some good points about getting better nonprofit leaders by increasing compensation and about shifting the emphasis to the effectiveness with which an organization succeeds in reaching its goal, rather than the efficiency with which it collect funds.  He does make these arguments, but only after he has gone to extra lengths to offend those in the U.S. who are the primary sources of charitable funding.

Pallotta is an angry, bitter man.  This book had potential, but it will change no minds.  It’s not worth the price, nor is it worth the time reading, especially when there are so many other books out there worth reading.

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