Gene Tagaki raises some interesting thoughts over on the Non-Profit Law blog on the question of how legal concepts and structures may need to adjust to reflect changing values in the non-profit sphere. He lays out some thoughts in regard to Charitability, Philanthropy, Governance, Technology, Fundraising, Advocacy, and Employment.
I provide this list with the intention of sparking enough interest in folks to read more deeply because I am only going to touch on a few ideas that popped for me.
One question he raised was whether the IRS would need to adjust its definition of 501(c)(3) entities:
“Would relief of historically discriminated groups of individuals without regard to poverty or distress now qualify as charitable? Would the sale of alternative energy sources for personal use be charitable even if at market rates?”
Tagaki also points out that there is a growing shift in how fundraising is accomplished and how the work of social good is being framed. He notes that crowdfunding focused on supporting a specific project or individual versus organizations which help many. He also cites corporate efforts to “charity-wash” their activities by positioning themselves as reducing social problems.
“Fundraising trends also raise other legal concerns as nonprofit fundraisers face competitive pressure from those raising money from crowdfunding platforms to help specific individuals rather than charities, businesses proclaiming to do more social good than nonprofits, and entrepreneurs looking to both help charitable causes while creating for themselves an opportunity to earn substantial amounts of money.”
Finally, Takagi observes there is a trend not only toward remote work, but also shared leadership of organizations. This approach is likely to exist in tension, if not complete conflict with a hierarchical board governance model legally required of nonprofits in the US.
“Many organizations are struggling with this movement as there are clear and proven benefits with traditional hierarchies and the law is built on boards having ultimate responsibility and authority over the activities and affairs of their corporations. But there are shifts in power that are possible, and laws or regulatory guidance that confirm the appropriateness of certain delegations of authority may be helpful. What are some of the distributed leadership systems that would be helpful if recognized by sector leaders as good practice and by lawmakers and regulators as acceptable?”
As always, many things to think about for the future.