April 18, 2013; Time Magazine

Imagine being named as one of the 100 most influential people in your neighborhood, your city, or your state. Time Magazine has judged 100 people as most influential in the whole world. As such, every one of them is important to the nonprofit sector, but some stand out with nonprofit and philanthropic identities that make them worthy of special mention here in the NPQ Newswire. We pick three, just for a taste of the Time list:

  • Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s close friend and counselor, makes the list under the category of “titan.” She is certainly a titan in philanthropic circles. Upon President Obama’s election in 2008, foundations made a concerted effort to connect with her in the effort to establish partnerships with the new administration. While foundations have had many interactions with Obama Administration personnel who have come and gone, such as Melody Barnes, Sonal Shah, and the various administrators who have passed through the Corporation for National and Community Service and its foundation-focused Social Innovation Fund, there seems to be no question that Jarrett’s long history with nonprofits and foundations and her deep understanding of President Obama’s policy priorities have made her the go-to person for constructing partnerships with the administration.
  • South African-born Elon Musk first emerged onto the scene as one of the very young co-founders of PayPal. He is typically thought of as a high-profile social entrepreneur, having founded SpaceX and currently serving as CEO of Tesla Motors. What’s of greater importance to NPQ readers is that Musk is very well regarded among foundations interested in social entrepreneurship. His Musk Foundation has a strong interest in energy issues—reflecting, perhaps, Tesla’s electric cars—and he was on the board of the X Prize Foundation, the archetypal foundation that believes in encouraging technological innovations and advances through public competition. Recently, he has been linked to the new 501(c)(4) that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is establishing. Foundations increasingly love social entrepreneurship, and Musk, through PayPal to SpaceX, is one of social entrepreneurship’s symbols.
  • Given that the U.S. Senate just capitulated to his organization despite the fact that 90 percent of the American public is against him, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre has to stand out as a representative of a dangerous—and, according to TIME, internationally influential—dynamic in the nonprofit sector writ large. Based on rationales that many of us cannot fathom, the Senate rejected the much watered-down Manchin-Toomey compromise on background checks for gun purchasers. The fundamental reason is the scare tactics employed by the NRA, creating fear in the American public about the creation of a national gun registry and the possibility that wild-eyed Obama-ites are going to take away people’s guns. None of these terrors are true, leading an obviously outraged President Obama to denounce the opposition to the gun legislation for spreading lies, a rarely used word in national political parlance. The opposition to the legislation tracks back to LaPierre’s National Rifle Association, which was steadfast against anything and everything. We wait for LaPierre to explain to Gabby Giffords (on the TIME list), Malala Yousafzai (also on the TIME list), and the Newtown families the nonprofit sector values his organization stands for. But his influence cannot be denied.

Time writes for a diverse readership, which leads to the inclusion of people from the entertainment sector, such as Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, who are both exceptionally talented, but hardly merit spots on a list with Barack Obama and Kim Jong-un. Moreover, the TIME technique of inviting other celebrities to write the profiles (for example, Ted Nugent writing the paragraph about LaPierre or Sarah Palin describing the merits of Rand Paul) is grating. But people look to this list to understand who really influences society, here and internationally. Who would you add to the “most influential” from the nonprofit or philanthropic sectors, if anyone, and who would you delete from TIME’s selections?—Rick Cohen