• Grace Mastalli

    In more than four decades of working with under-funded nonprofit organizations I have watched the ecstasy and agony of large donations offered by deep pocket sources with agendas very different from the organizations’ missions. Whether it was the CIA supporting the US National Student Association during the ‘sixties, Playboy founding women’s rights or big Pharma and Insurers making AARP and some health reform groups part of their business strategies, it rarely has served the nonprofits well.

    As a Sufi parable says, “It doesn’t make whether the melon falls on the knife or the knife falls on the melon. It is the melon that gets hurt.” Major donors — whether a CIA front or Google.org– inevitably influence all organizational priorities, policy and programs. In reality, there may be no such thing as “no strings attached” but public openness and stake-holder engagement can help immensely. Strategic partnerships with can work when transparency is a central principle.