Mark Rosenman has written an article “Silence Isn’t Golden” for Philantopic of the US Foundation Center. It is well worth reading. “Confronted by headlines about truly questionable practices at a few dozen charities, the response of too many nonprofit leaders has been to bury their heads in the sand and try to pull the hole in after them. What these leaders fail to appreciate is that silence in response to scandalous behavior is neither golden nor in their best interests.”
He notes: “When it comes to nonprofits, these kinds of abuses are nothing new, and neither is the timidity of nonprofit leaders in condemning them. Their silence in the past has greeted media coverage of huge salaries paid to charity officials, outlandish benefits, self-dealing within boards, tax gimmicks for donors, and malfeasance in program operations. Unfortunately, the cost of that silence is something we all bear. ...
Declining confidence in charities isn’t in anyone’s interests. Unfortunately, it’s likely to become a fact of life if national and local nonprofit leaders refuse to speak up. Trying to sidestep the issue instead of condemning selfish and uncharitable behavior is an abdication of both public responsibility and private organizational stewardship.”
Rosenman concludes with “It’s critical that nonprofit leaders find their voice on this issue, and not simply because the silence of good people serves to encourage the bad actors. In the current environment, public officials, be they tax authorities or attorneys general, lack the resources and/or legal power to prosecute malefactors; they need our help. Speaking out against sleazy practices and shameless operators is the least we can do. The interests of the sector, and the public, demand it.”
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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.