The Council on Foundations, a nonprofit membership association of grant making foundations and corporations, is conducting the Philanthropic Challenge on Economy & Finance contest at its annual conference this April. The association is currently accepting applications for participants, who are asked to share “how they want to build their economies at a local or national level,” according to the Council’s website. During the contest, three finalists will be given the opportunity to pitch their mission and answer judges’ questions. The organization that gets the most votes from conference attendees will be the winner.
There have been mixed reactions to this form of fundraising, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy article by Alex Daniels: Council on Foundations’ Venture-Capital Style Contest Sparks Ire. Council spokesman Jesse Salazar believes that “the challenge is an opportunity for people with good ideas to find a way to turn those ideas into reality. This is a way for grantees and grantors to walk in each other’s shoes and understand the experience from both sides,” he states. The article also quotes Katie Merrow, VP of Community Impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who says “this is a chance for nonprofits to get in front of donors who care about their mission.”
The article shares a negative reaction from Jan Masaoka, CEO of California Association of Nonprofits. “Contests can offer benefits. For instance, by pitching in public, nonprofits can compare how they present their plans to grant makers with others competing for the same money; but that’s not enough to counterbalance the downsides of the contest,” she says. She goes on to declare the challenge “a ‘spectacle’ and a cross between the vintage television show ‘Queen for a Day’ and the more recent ‘American Idol.” Masaoka continues: “For the Council on Foundations, which always promotes thoughtful, strategic grant making, this seems contradictory at best.”