Vast and largely unexamined, the world of American charities accounts for fully 10 percent of economic activity in this country, yet operates with little accountability, no real barriers to entry, and a stunning lack of evidence of effectiveness. In With Charity for All, Ken Stern reveals a problem hidden in plain sight and prescribes a whole new way for Americans to make a difference.
Each year, two thirds of American households donate to charities, with charitable revenues exceeding one trillion dollars. Yet while the mutual fund industry employs more than 150,000 people to rate and evaluate for-profit companies, nothing remotely comparable exists to monitor the nonprofit world. Instead, each individual is on his or her own, writing checks for a cause and going on faith. Ken Stern, former head of NPR and a long-time nonprofit executive, set out to investigate the vast world of U.S. charities and discovered a sector hobbled by deep structural flaws. Unlike private corporations that respond to market signals and go out of business when they fail, nonprofit organizations have a very low barrier to entry (the IRS approves 99.5 percent of applications) and once established rarely die. From water charities aimed at improving life in Africa to drug education programs run by police officers in thousands of U.S. schools, and including American charitable icons such as the Red Cross, Stern tells devastating stories of organizations that raise and spend millions of dollars without ever cracking the problems they set out to solve.
But he also discovered some good news: a growing movement toward accountability and effectiveness in the nonprofit world. With Charity for All is compulsively readable, driven in its early pages by the plight of millions of Americans donating to good causes to no good end, and in its last chapters by an inspiring prescription for individual giving and widespread reform.
“Ken Stern, former chief executive officer of National Public Radio, includes surprise after surprise within the pages of With Charity for All….Color him more exasperated than mean, more provocative than shrill, and counterintuitive instead of purveying stale conventional wisdom. Stern's advice is consequential, because if followed it will alter the charitable realm.”
"In this provocative exposé, the former CEO and COO of National Public Radio takes a critical view of today’s nonprofit world, calling for reform and a redefinition of what constitutes a charity. For anyone who has given time or money to not-for-profits, Stern’s critique will prove both disturbing and thought-provoking ... An engrossing read, this look at the evolution and current state of the charitable world is sure to stimulate debate."
"[Stern] fills the text with insightful, vivid examples ... A trove of useful insider wisdom."
"Important and thought provoking analysis"