Fighting for the people who fight for the people: Dan Pallotta

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

I recently heard the president of a very well-respected, and much needed, nonprofit organization comment on what happened when his salary was questioned by a reporter. “My peers distanced themselves. I assume they felt that they might be tainted by a connection to me. But it wasn’t just my peers. No one was there to talk on my behalf about the quality of the services my organization provided, the growth that had occurred in additional revenue during my tenure, or the overall value that I had brought to the work.” He ended his comment by saying, “That’s why I joined the Advisory Board of the Charity Defense Council.”

It was early 2009 when I first heard of Dan Pallotta. His book, Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential, transformed how I thought about the nonprofit sector. Since that time, Dan spoke at WRAG’s 2009 Annual Meeting, wrote another book, Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World, established the Charity Defense Council, and did a TED talk that at last count had almost 3 million views. He also invited me to join the Charity Defense Council. I did.

The nonprofit sector is a critical component of our society. It is often the research and development arm for the government, testing interventions before government takes them to scale. It is often the vehicle for meeting basic needs, like temporary housing following a storm or shelter for the homeless. Nonprofits help to make our society as rich and caring as it is. That’s why the Charity Defense Council, with its mission, “We fight for the people who fight for the people,” is an important new advocate to give voice to this sector.

Our region will have another opportunity to hear from Dan on May 20, when he keynotes the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington’s annual meeting. The day before that, Dan will be coming to WRAG as part of our CEO series. He will talk about his vision for how philanthropy can be a part of the support network for the nonprofit sector.

In addition to Dan Pallotta, WRAG will bring other important leaders to meet with CEOs through our Coffee and Conversation series (see below). These gatherings are opportunities to not only hear from an expert, but also to network with your colleagues in philanthropy. WRAG CEOs, to register for any event, email Rebekah Seder at

Here’s the line up for the first half of 2014:

March 6 | Michael Smith of the White House’s Social Innovation Fund

March 25 | Dave Abbott of the Gund Foundation and Eric Goulet of the DC Mayor’s Budget office on Social Impact Bonds

April 8 | Andy Burness and Lowell Dempsey of Burness Communications on the impact of Twitter and Facebook

May 19 | Dan Pallotta on defending the nonprofit sector

June 12 | Alan Abramson of GMU on new research on philanthropy in the region