Muddling Through Just Won’t Do.


Rodney W. Nichols, past President and CEO Emeritus of the NY Academy of Sciences, is Senior Advisor to the Alliance For Global Good. rodney.nichols12@gmail.com

Many medium-sized non-profits teeter on the edge of failure — not necessarily bankruptcy, just settling for mediocrity and less impact. Why? Most are so overworked –- solving urgent social problems, meeting their payroll with uncertain funding — that they hardly have time to envision new possibilities.

Rarely do they have sufficient financing to invest in fresh directions. So they skimp on preparing for the future. They just muddle through.

Yes, they do achieve results – in fact, often large benefits. But usually there is potential for much, much more. Doing more takes innovation.

And innovation takes imagination, energy, and persistence, and yes, funds! You can’t just muddle through. Ben Franklin had it right. Recall that he was a marvel of an innovator, a creative force for a thriving civil society – he created the volunteer fire department and the public library. He said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Franklin knew you must push hard thinking about the future.

This insight animated the Alliance For Global Good in creating the Innovation Fund in 2012. The Fund challenges non-profits to think creatively about how they can earn revenue to serve their missions. Earning revenue promotes missions.

The Fund awards grants for jump starting action on a non-profit’s mature business plans. For two years the Fund has shown how well this works. See www.afgg.org for the list of remarkable grantees across the world in many fields.

This year the Innovation Fund prepares for its own future and seeks donor-partners. Franklin would be proud of the Fund’s ambition as well as its prudence. Yet questions remain. Will traditional donors, stuck in old paradigms about non-profits, see the power in this new idea? Will donors see that non-profits need incentives, and capital, to become more entrepreneurial? The IF management will find out.

Let’s have no more muddling through.

Rodney W. Nichols
Senior Advisor to Alliance For global Good
President and CEO emeritus, New York Academy of Sciences
April 2014

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Proud to announce our newest partner

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Leonard Kaplan’s creation of the Alliance for Global Good was the expression of his passionate philanthropy.  It’s also the logical outgrowth of all that came before it.  Together with his wife and philanthropic partner Tobee, and through a family foundation later renamed TOLEO, they gave unselfishly of resources and time to improve their community and the world for more than twenty-five years.

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

Tobee & Leonard Kaplan

The Alliance’s focus on five areas of giving—health, education, environment, poverty, and world relations—is mirrored in Leonard’s past.  He has made major gifts to Duke University Medical Center and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer and Heart Centers, to the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC Chapel Hill, to the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Moses Cone Hospital, and had a leadership position at the Greensboro Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.  In 2004, Leonard and Tobee built the new building for the Women’s Resource Center in Greensboro. He created scholarships for residents of Guilford County to attend North Carolina colleges and universities, and was a founding donor of Elon University Law School.  Critically, in partnership with the Kellogg Foundation, Leonard helped create the Center for Organizational Leadership, a philanthropic studies program (which was one of first nationally to educate non-profit executives).

“Everyone wants to leave something to their grandchildren.”

“The money won’t matter if the world they live in is so far gone,” Kaplan says. “The opportunity now is to take some of what might become their inheritance, and use it soon to make the world a better place.”

Addressing poverty, Leonard made possible the building of two houses for Habitat for Humanity, and by providing food for hungry people both close to home in Greensboro, and as far abroad as the former Soviet Union.   The Kaplans were staunch supporters of Trickle Up, which provides grant financing to women in the developing world who want to start their own microenterprise.

Leonard gave not only of his wealth, but also of his time and expertise, taking on leadership positions in many organizations and campaigns such as the Greater Greensboro United Way DeToqueville Society, and as a Core Member of ACTION Greensboro, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education, revitalization of downtown Greensboro, and leveraging economic development.

Active in their community of faith, the Kaplans built a new building for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, and for the Hillel youth organization at U.N.C., Chapel Hill.  He served on the board of the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, and on that of the national Hillel organization, and was a founder of Camp Ramah Darom.

Viewing giving as a responsibility of affluence, Leonard led by example, and encouraged others to do the same.  He created Wealth & Giving, an educational program designed to inspire the largest wealth holders in this country to be more generous.  The Alliance continues that work by promoting and providing donors with opportunities for effective and efficient giving.

Read more about the Five Guiding Principles.