Letter From the CEO: Trib’s “Raised Eyebrows” Demand That We Raise Our Voices for the Sector

Friday, June 22, 2012

ValerieLies72DPIIf you read Thursday’s Chicago Tribune article about nonprofit compensation abuse and experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance, you aren’t alone.

The story told by ‘CEO pay hikes raise eyebrows’ (link above) painted a picture of our sector that’s probably different from your daily experience as a nonprofit professional. If we are to believe the article, our sector provides little value, lacks transparency, and poses a risk to the well being of the state, requiring more legislation and regulation. 

But we know that isn’t true.

Daily, over half a million dedicated nonprofit employees work to help strengthen communities, make them livable, solve problems, and meet basic needs like education, health, food, shelter, and the arts.  We do this work because we believe in our missions and believe in the role we play in our society – doing the most good for the most needy. And often we do this work while waiting for our contracts to be paid at rates far lower than the cost of providing the services.

On our sector’s behalf, Donors Forum is responding to the Tribune (click for the letter) to correct their misperception of our sector and how it operates. 

We encourage you to send a letter of your own.

This article isn’t the first of its kind and it won’t be the last. While down in Springfield this past spring, Donors Forum heard from legislators that our sector ‘needs more sunshine.’ Our colleagues across the country have shared similar stories of heightened scrutiny – scrutiny that calls for greater transparency and oversight. In online conversations, ordinary citizens question what exactly we do, though we’re in their communities every day. And it is unfortunate that recent scandals involving nonprofit executive malfeasance have helped shape these conversations.

These questions aren’t unfamiliar to our sector, but they are growing in number and volume; how should we answer? 

•  We answer by taking the opportunity to invite our critics to talk with us about our work, our regulations, our people, and our impact. 

•  We answer by taking the opportunity to encourage our state regulators to enforce and apply nonprofit regulations equally and impartially.

•  We answer by taking the opportunity to adhere to the highest ethical standards for our industry – by revisiting, as an organization, the Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices or sharing them with staff and board members for the first time: www.donorsforum.org/publictrust.

 •  We answer by taking the opportunity to have conversations with each other and wrestle with issues of perception, value, and what our responsibilities are to the public we serve. 

As the catalyzing voice for our sector, and advocate for philanthropy and nonprofits, Donors Forum is here to protect and promote your work and missions.

Share your comments here on our blog in the section below or on Twitter, or email at us at advocacy@donorsforum.org to share any conversations you’re having about the Tribune article.

 ~ Valerie S. Lies, President & CEO, Donors Forum (Illinois)