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The Case Against Charities: Green Drinks December Forum


Shanghai China

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Many of us are unaware that the word “profit” is derived from the Latin word profectus, meaning “progress” and proficere, meaning “to advance.” Therefore, “non-profit” ironically means “no-progress”.

We live in a world where people are willing to give their money to businesses, irrespective of the ‘profit margin’ that these businesses make on their products and services. Yet, the most common questions asked to nonprofits are regarding where their money goes, what is it used for, and what percentage of the donation goes to serve the cause. Companies are allowed to have high cost overheads while they are selling products that often create negative social or environmental impact. Yet, charities and nonprofits that work tirelessly to reduce this impact often get questioned for their high overhead. We allow the for-profit sector to pay high salaries to their employees, but question charities that do the same, which has created two mutually exclusive career paths for youth: make a difference or make money.

Truth be told, our society has been unconsciously denying charities the tools of capitalism, while businesses are ‘allowed’ to use them without restraint. This has been greatly limiting the success of the charitable organizations.

Charities, nonprofits and NGO’s are essential and often effective mechanisms of supporting or lessening the severity of damages around the world. Governments and businesses have created many of these problems and often fail to solve them— be it social or environmental, while charitable organizations persevere, and often excel at solving problems in an innovative manner with limited resources.

At a special year-end event inspired by Dan Pallotta’s book, Uncharitable [“The way we think about charities is dead wrong!”] Green Initiatives organizes a unique debate on this unfair and impractical balance. In the spirit of the festive season, we encourage our attendees to come with an open mind, a warm heart, and get ready for a stimulating discussion on the current state of nonprofits.

This will also be the last event of the year-long Power of One event series, the aim of which was to raise community awareness on common environmental topics and encourage action through participation.

Some questions we would be looking to answer through this forum are:

  • What is the origin of the ‘charity’ or ‘nonprofit’ philosophy? What are the conditions that led to its formation and are they still valid today?
  • What are the tools of capitalism that businesses are allowed but charities are discouraged from using?
  • Why does our society have one attitude towards businesses and a surprisingly different attitude towards nonprofits?
  • What are the common problems faced by nonprofits and what tools or support do they require to overcome them?
  • What are appropriate parameters for measuring the success of nonprofits? How can they take a step forward to catalyze their success?
  • What is the way forward? Charities, businesses or hybrids?

Note: There will be an entrance fee of ¥30 for all registered guests, that includes juice and beer. ¥50 for non-registered guests. Free entrance for students and interns, with PRIOR REGISTRATION (else ¥30).

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Green Initiatives
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Asia Pacific's Hub For Collaboration On Sustainable Development
An Eco-Business initiative
The SDG Co