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Ultryism

Ultryism is defined in Argon Desaki's Report from Earth as "doing well by doing good, accomplishing something for the wider world and for oneself at the same time." An obvious issue with such a policy is how to balance these apparently divergent aims. It is often thought that people working at nonprofit organizations should not enjoy too much compensation for their work. They should not benefit too greatly, because the aim of such an organization is to provide to benefit society as a whole or some group within society, such as cancer patients, students, or veterans, and on the face of it whatever resources are given to the organizers will in effect be taken from the intended beneficiaries.

Thus the Wounded Warrior Project has been criticized for excessively using funds it raised on behalf of veterans for the benefit of Wounded Warrior Project managers and employees:

"It has spent millions a year on travel, dinners, hotels and conferences that often seemed more lavish than appropriate, more than four dozen current and former employees said in interviews. Former workers recounted buying business-class seats and regularly jetting around the country for minor meetings, or staying in $500-per-night hotel rooms."
- Dave Philipps, Wounded Warrior Project Spends Lavishly on Itself, Insiders Say, NYT, Jan. 27, 2016


Similarly, some have questioned the propriety of generously compensating college presidents when rapidly rising tuition makes college unaffordable for a growing number of students. Is it appropriate for Columbia University's president to receive compensation of $4.6 million? Or for the University of Pennsylvania's Amy Gutmann to receive over $3 million? [These figures are from Stephanie Saul's Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds.]

Since overhead costs divert funds from a nonprofit's intended beneficiaries, it is understandable that minimal overhead expense is used as a measure of a nonprofit's efficiency. However, placing too much emphasis on minimizing overhead can easily lead to an inefficient mode of operation in which, rather than hiring staff to perform overhead activities such as writing grant proposals, these duties are assigned to people employed to provide services to the nonprofit's intended beneficiaries. The result may be that a lower amount shown for overhead in the organization's accounting is achieved at the cost of inefficiency in achieving the nonprofit's goal.

Ian Hanna, responding to criticism of the Wounded Warrior Project's self-serving expenditures, warns against placing too much emphasis on minimizing overhead:

It is perfectly reasonable to hold Wounded Warrior or any other organization — nonprofit, for-profit or governmental — accountable for lavish spending or gaming its own metrics. But constraining nonprofits to a special class of organization that isn’t allowed to market itself, pay competitive salaries or grow quickly is a longstanding tradition in America.

In recent years, that dated thinking has been torn apart, appropriately replaced by the expectation that this sector should be judged on how effectively organizations solve social and environmental problems.

Perpetuating the myth that the worth of a nonprofit organization boils down to what it spends on overhead is simply indefensible. It’s a mind-set that keeps the sector small and dooms efforts from the start.
- Ian Hanna, Letter to the Editor, NYT, Jan. 30, 3016





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