Buffet Urges Philanthropic Risk-Taking

March 24, 2011 at 7:27 PM Leave a comment

Warren Buffet urged philanthropists to take risks and to be prepared to learn from failure, the Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday. The billionaire investor made the comments during his and Bill Gates’s visit to India this week.

“Intelligent charity, big-time charity should tackle things where it’ll fail,” Buffett, 80, said Tuesday at a press conference in Bangalore, India. “If you succeed in everything you’re doing in charity, you’re attempting things that are too easy.”

As we’ve noted before, nonprofits have long been criticized for an unwillingness to admit failure, potentially short-circuiting any chance to learn from it. In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Rick Cohen takes a critical look at recent increases in openness:

All too frequently, the discussions of failure are really not about failure at all. They are discussions of programs that fell somewhat short of expectations. Even more frequently, the program failures are in fact small successes – the programs that didn’t achieve quite what they were intended to achieve, but still left the communities measurably better than they were before the foundation’s intervention.

Cohen argues that critical review of specific programs is not enough; a more comprehensive reform agenda must prevail. To that end, the NPQ interviewed over two dozen people inside and outside foundations to learn where foundations really fail. Read the whole thing.

 

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Entry filed under: Big Donors, General.

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